Active Interest in Vaccines Leads to Improved Public Health
Apr 05, 2013

NPHW_Logo_It’s National Public Health Week and this year’s focus is on ROI –  Return On Investment.  Considering today’s budgetary challenges, it’s imperative that we spend public health funds wisely.  And what better way to evaluate our investment than to consider the savings we earn from each dollar spent.  According to the American Public Health Associationchildhood immunizations provide a $22 return on every $1 invested in direct and indirect health costs.  They also save 33,000 lives and prevent 14 million cases of disease. 
While vaccinations help keep our children healthy, this amazing return on investment would not be possible without the support of health care workers and public health professionals all across the country. As they work to promote National Public Health Week, perhaps we should take a moment to consider how we can support them.  Of course, it begins by committing ourselves to a healthy lifestyle.  But is that enough?  Public health needs to engage the public at large.  Are we not called to encourage good public health behaviors within our communities as well?  Can we be more active in promoting immunizations among our friends, families, co-workers and neighbors?
While we may not expect a casual conversation to convince a friend to overcome their vaccine hesitancy, or a shared Facebook link to change the mind of a vaccine critic, it’s likely that these small persistent actions can help to educate others and bring the importance of vaccines to the forefront of public health.  Sharing reputable sources and encouraging people to investigate their concerns is just one way we can each help to improve vaccination rates, which in turn can help ensure healthier communities.
As we evaluate our individual role in public health, I would like to pose a simple question, that was recently posed to a group of parents in a pro-vaccine parenting group.

“What piqued your interest in vaccines?”

As one might expect, every response is different.  Yet, each individual experience has certain similarities and helps illustrate that intelligent discussion about vaccines can help identify dangerous misinformation. Amanda, who posed the initial question to the group, explained that her interest began with a biology course her freshman year of college.  She said,

“Some grad students came in and gave a talk about the Hep B vaccine and encouraged us to get the series. I did and I encouraged my co-workers and friends to do so too. Knowing how easy it was to contract and how easily I could prevent it was empowering! When I married a Bangladeshi, I knew we would always fully vaccinate because my husband saw the effects of polio and smallpox and other diseases firsthand.”

Carla explained that what piqued her interest was 

“Becoming a mom and realizing the amount of people not vaccinating.  I don’t think I realized what a polarizing issue this had become.”

Kristine had a similar story about the anti-vaccine sentiment she encountered.

“It happened after my son was born.  I became exposed to the anti-vaccine people on parenting sites, especially Dr. Sears. I started searching around for pro-vaccine sites and info, and found Vaccinate Your Baby.  But first I spent hours weeding through the cray-cray anti-vaccine crap which dominated the Google search results!”

As a hospital employee Tiffany had always been interested in immunizations, but in 2009 she was surprised to realize that there were some people who didn’t support vaccines.

“A couple of months after H1N1 hit, I was laid up for a month. Since I was pretty useless, I started really playing around on Facebook, fell into the CDC page and saw all the insane crap being posted. Crazy stuff that I had never even heard of, H1N1 is a government cover up, NWO, RFID chips… I was floored. I worked with the virus. I worked days on end trying to keep up with the overwhelming number of patients, as did every hospital employee. Patients were dying – pregnant women, children, otherwise healthy people – and these nut jobs were posting it was a conspiracy to kill thousands of people or a big pharma plot to make money. I never knew there was so much crazy out there. I had never really thought about it too much.  Why wouldn’t you vaccinate? Being new to the forums back then taught me some valuable lessons.  I met some wonderful people and learned (and am still learning) from many knowledgeable people.”

After suspecting her own child may have had a vaccine reaction, Jennifer realized how parents could easily fall victim to the anti-vaccine agenda.

“I had my first child, and I had been getting her immunized on schedule, because I had never questioned vaccinating. I want to say her 6 month jabs came and went, and she happened to pick up a stomach bug right around the same time. So I had this freshly vaccinated, miniature version of Linda Blair, feverish, and crying. (Luckily I was living with my dad at the time, and he kept me calm enough to not have a super mommy meltdown.) Anyways, as most horror stories go, I went to Dr. Google with her symptoms, and landed in woo hell. After a good look through some super woo, and thinking ‘these people can’t be serious’, I strayed back into the realms of reality, and found sites with real info, that weren’t crazy, and that was that. I hadn’t thought to question vaccines before that, but afterwards, I was even more confident in my decision, and decided I couldn’t just stand by and let others who are more easily swayed, be pulled into the whackadoodle vortex.  Thus, I become a vaccine advocate, both online and out in the real world. :)”

Several parents explained that their jobs and scientific backgrounds were the biggest influence in their pro-vaccine position.  Katie, who works for a vaccine manufacturer, said that hearing Dr. Offit speak was extremely motivational and opened her eyes to the anti-vaccine movement.  And although Elizabeth has a masters in public health, she hadn’t realized there was an anti-vaccine movement until a coworker gave her a copy of one of Dr. Offit’s books. Another mother explained that her autism research at Yale, along with reading Dr. Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets, made her actively pro-vaccine.
Interestingly enough, it’s common to hear vaccine critics claim that parents need to “do their research” before making a vaccination decision.  But as I continued reading through the various responses from this group of parents, it became obvious that reading the research is why so many of them came out on the side of science. Take for instance this parent who explains what happened when a close friend’s child was diagnosed with autism.  She says,

“I started to hear the “vaccines caused it!” nonsense, and said “that ain’t soundin’ right to me,” and started reading. And reading. And reading. And reading research. And more research. Etc. And here I am.

Amanda added,

“A friend of mine, who had her first child a few months after I had my first, told me she was not vaccinating and that I should “do my research” and that there were “too many risks” and that “all Christians should examine the vaccine ingredients.” I checked out all of that and became totally pro-vax.”

So, in honor of National Public Health week, I ask that you consider your own story and add it to the comments below.   

How did you become interested in vaccines?

What have you done to encourage vaccination and good health? 

By sharing our stories, we share our commitment to good health.  If you would like to join others in advocating for vaccines, sign up to Get Involved on the Vaccinate Your Baby website today.  You will receive free alerts and important notifications about current immunization issues.  It’s only with your active participation that we can hope for a Return on Investment that is absolutely priceless.

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29 responses to “Active Interest in Vaccines Leads to Improved Public Health”

  1. Jennifer McDonald says:

    Proud mother of 3 darling, healthy little girls, who are up-to-date on their immunizations (for their respective ages, of course). I don’t understand why anyone would want to leave their poor children at risk for nasty diseases, that can be so easily prevented, by a few seconds of discomfort! We’re seeing the backlash, from the anti-vaccine wave of nonsense, unfold right before our eyes. Whooping Cough outbreaks. Measles outbreaks. How can one stand in the wake of these horrible outbreaks, with so many sick, and others dying.. and still believe that vaccinating isn’t worth it? It boggles my mind. Vaccinating is worth it, ten times over!

  2. Lawrence says:

    Both of my kids are fully vaccinated, healthy, happy & doing great all-around. I stumbled upon the misinformation being peddled on the Internet and took an interest in debunking the lies, myths and misconceptions in the interest of no only my own children, but all of the other kids as well (those that can’t be vaccinated because of medical reasons & babies who are too young) so we can live in a world with less disease then we had before……

  3. erika says:

    Having a high risk child emphasized the importance of vaccinations; not just for us but for others surrounding us as well. I never really thought about vaccines until my child’s medical issues were diagnosed, then i started to look for more information and ways to share our story.

  4. everychildbytwo says:

    I was fresh out of Grad School at Gallaudet University for the Deaf with plans to work with deaf children. I had a great job at the American Nurses Association (ANA) and I guess my passion for kids was pretty well known. What luck when the Every Child by Two program became a part of the ANA and I was chosen as the Program Manager for the project. We created the first online/email newsletter on vaccines during the start of the Internet age and everything evolved from there. ECBT became an independent non-profit in 1998 and I’ve been blessed to lead the organization ever since. I’m passionate about public health b/c it saves lives…maybe not every day – but one child’s life saved is enough to fan the flames of passion for my job for endless days!

  5. Allison says:

    A friend’s child was diagnosed with severe autism, and I started to hear the fraudulent claims of a link between vaccines and autism. When I looked into the science, I was appalled at how people were being misled about vaccines. I started to pay more attention to vaccine denialism and vaccine rejection, and the spurious “research” behind those movements. As an educator, I was interested in how the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement were manipulating people with lies and misinformation, and I wanted to teach people how to recognize the difference between good credible science and bad science. All of that led me to eventually co-author a book for parents that reassures them (using credible research) that vaccines are safe and save lives.

  6. Christine Vara says:

    It has come to our attention that some people have been having problems getting their comments to post recently. We apologize for this unexpected issue with WordPress and we are working to resolve it. In the meantime, if you should have difficulty please send us an email at Thank you for your understanding and continued participation.

  7. Christine Vara says:

    Because of technical difficulties, the following comment has been provided to us from Kelly Wessel:
    “Vaccines are part of my professional life and vaccinating my children was an obvious decision for me. I was aware of anti-vaxers as part of the discussion of vaccines but anti-vaxers were characterized as an uneducated fringe group lacking social morals.
    It wasn’t until I became a parent that I encountered other parents that were really struggling with the decision to vaccinate their children. They were confused by the misinformation spread by anti-vaccine groups. I naively thought that by sharing my education with them, that would clear up the confusion. How can parents claim to want to make the best decision for their children, if they didn’t have access to the best information? I was quite shocked at the vitriol I received in return.
    It has become clear to me that despite their claims to have the best interests of their children at heart, the decision to not vaccinate has nothing to do with their children. It is a psychological high for anti-vaxers to reject vaccines. Parents that truly do have the best interests of their children at heart, do question vaccines, but they also listen to the answers. The evidence in favour of vaccines is so overwhelming that they do vaccinate. I continue to learn about vaccines so that I can answer the questions about vaccines by parents that sincerely want to know.”

  8. Melody RN says:

    Nurses Who Vaccinate came to be when there was a rise of nurses and healthcare workers falling victim to misinformation. Many nurses were forgetting the basics of biology and immunology they had learned in nursing school and were seen to be spreading myths to patients and co-workers. It was becoming incredibly frustrating to constant correct and educate coworkers and colleagues in real life and online about the merits of vaccinations. Quite often they used conspiracy websites as sources, unaware that the sites were invalid and inaccurate sources of information. Nurses Who Vaccinate was created to give nurses and other healthcare workers a place to keep up with current immunization, research news, continuing education credits And medical News. With over 700 supporters, it’s quite exciting to see how far NWV has come with the assistance of organizations such as Vaccinate Your Baby, IAC, and CHOP. Thank you SOP for supporting Public Health workers!

  9. Jay Kanta says:

    I got into the “pro-vaccine” groups because I’m so strongly pro-science and against conspiracy theories that negatively affect society. Most of my recognition of the anti-science mentality started with creationism and then climate change. The same types of bad arguments and logical fallacies continues in the anti-vaccination groups, and vaccines are far more important than the understanding of evolution or even understanding how CO2 affects the climate.

  10. Christine Vara says:

    Luci also shared the following comment with us and asked if we could post it on her behalf:
    “Vaccinated when I was a little girl, mother of three young children, wife of an MPH I have always believed that vaccines were safe, useful for people, children and adults, and protective for the people who couldn’t be vaccinated…until I heard some nonsense from other parents, pediatricians (yes) and joined facebook where my “friends” post all those anti-vax memes, and – some of them – tried to make me feel guilty because I was following the vaccine schedule (some of them just removed me from their friend list for this reason I believe). I was and am very surprised of how many clever, rational people lose the sense of reality when the topic is health or diet. My 2nd got measles during the week when his vaccine was scheduled (1 case on ???), luckily everything went well. My 3rd had been hospitalized several times when he was a little baby, before the “vaccine age” and all the doctors were very careful with him not to bring him out of his room etc. I met sick children who couldn’t be vaccinated at all. This is why I am doing all my best to learn and inform people that all these rumors are just rumors, sometimes ignorance, sometimes lies and that real science is going to the opposite direction. On the other side I understand all those desperate parents of ASD children who ask for answers and think that they deserve truth, honesty and real science.”

  11. Christine Vara says:

    Here’s another response from a regular contributor here on Shot of Prevention. Lara Lohne writes,
    “I think most people here are aware of my story. At least the regular contributors are anyway. Vaccines have always been a big part of my life, even as a child. That being due to my mother being extremely anti-vaccine and so none of her children were vaccinated. I had mumps at 6 (talk about pain!), I had whooping cough (pertussis) at 17 that left me permanently damaged. I watched a younger sister nearly die from meningitis and come out permanently and totally deaf in her right ear leaving her with life long balance issues. Not to mention all the school we missed being unvaccinated due to measles outbreaks in our county. The more I learned about vaccines and diseases, and the more I experienced regarding the deceit surrounding the anti-vaccine sentiment, the more confused I became about the vaccine issue and what I had been raised to believe about them. When I was expecting my first child, I researched them daily. I walked to our local library and read reference books and historical documentation relating to vaccines and the diseases they prevent. My mother tried really hard to persuade me against it, but my mind had been changed and I wanted my own children to have the best protection possible and not have to suffer through diseases that could be prevented very easily. I have six children total, my youngest has autism, the rest are neurotypical. The funny thing is, my youngest is the only one that was not vaccinated on schedule (due to financial constraints). As it turns out, his father (as he has a different one from my older five) also was recently diagnosed with autism, so now we know where it came from, not to mention that I’ve found I am spectrumy also. The anti-vaccine sentiment is extremely strong in the people who uphold it. It is very difficult to persuade them against what they believe. I do, to a degree, understand that mentality, because I lived with it growing up. But understanding it as I do, makes me that much more adamant about supporting science and what we have learned from it.”

  12. Kimberly Rigg says:

    I was really surprised to discover a large majority of anti vaxers are uninformed christians who don’t trust science. I just so happen to be a Bible believing, young earth creationist, pro-lifer, married to a chemist, lover of microbiology and anatomy physiology who vaccinates her children on schedule. And there are many of us who do. I realized our voice is not heard at all. Its time we are heard.

  13. Jay Kanta says:

    Lying about medical credentials is a felony, Mr. Rich.

  14. drrsheppard says:

    Dr. Oz had on mercury fillings and how bad they are..
    but I guess injecting it is perfectly fine

  15. Jay Kanta says:

    Mr. Blaylock, I’ve reviewed many of your non-peer-reviewed travesties of science. You have always lied about herd immunity, you lack an understanding of the different mercurial compounds and you lie about nearly everything to do with vaccines. You are not a trustworthy source of information about anything and I think your patients deserve better.

  16. Lawrence says:

    @NotADoc – thought you were gone…..oh well, since doctors get sued for malpractice, I guess that means all modern medicine should be discarded, right? (based on your faulty logic, that’s what you are saying)

  17. Lawrence says:

    @NotADoc – you’ve already shown your lack of critical thinking skills, knowledge of basic biology, and embrace all of that is quack & woo-ful… about some real scientific citations?

  18. Chris says:

    Rich Sheppard, DC:

    I am licensed in 3 states JAY

    As a chiropractor, not a medical doctor. You have no training in immunology, microbiology, etc, and have not taken the US Medical Licensing Exam. Though, Dr. Blaylock did several decades ago. He is retired, and also has not relevant training in immunology, microbiology, etc.

  19. Bear Ben says:

    Lawrence, you are so disrespectful.

  20. Chris says:

    Bear Ben, are comments #13 and #18 examples of being respectful? Please, if you are going to criticize someone, be sure to not use a double standard.

  21. Gray Falcon says:

    @Bear Ben- No, but it’s quite possible you were trying to get past the lack of evidence by trying to silence someone for being “disrespectful”. When you value politeness over truth, you will be fooled by courteous liars.

  22. Lawrence says:

    @Gray – and “NotADoc” has been anything but respectful…..and definitely completely oblivious to the tenants of basic biology & immunology.

  23. novalox says:

    Going to insults now? That just proves that you have no point and are just trolling. Of course, you do look like a fool by doing so.
    So, are you going to stop tone trolling and actually put up actual objections, or are you going to keep launching infantile attacks? Let’s give you 3 posts to actually put up an objection, otherwise, we can assume with each insult that you admit that you have no argument.

  24. Lawrence says:

    @Bear – did you miss the parts where he threatened to launch “denial of service” attacks against this website?

  25. Chris says:

    I have had a child injured by an actual disease, before the vaccine was available. I know from personal experience that diseases are not benign, and from the science that the vaccines are safer than the diseases.
    Bear Ben/Joe/whoever, if you wish to elevate this blog above a “joke”, then present the evidence that the DTaP is more dangerous than diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Please restrict your documentation to listing the title, journal and dates of the PubMed indexed studies. Thank you.

  26. Lynn Bozof says:

    It took losing a son to a vaccine preventable disease, to make me wake up and not take for granted my kids’ health. I have learned so much through this journey of educating about meningitis, and wish I had known back them, what I know now.

  27. Lawrence says:

    You might want to comment on something ther than an article from 4 years ago.

  28. Lawrence says:

    If someone doesn’t get the “Miskatonic University” joke, they shouldn’t be on Facebook.
    And it’s “Lovecraft” not Lovejoy…..

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