Exposing vaccine hesitant to real-life pain of diseases makes them more pro-vaccine

May 22, 2019

The re-introduction of measles, mumps and other previously eradicated diseases to the United States is nothing short of a public health crisis. Since Jan. 1, a staggering 880 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 24 states -- the greatest number of cases since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

The outbreaks have been attributed to an increasing number of Americans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Overcoming this "vaccine hesitancy" is a major concern for government and health agencies, which have tried a variety of approaches to convince anti-vaxers to change their minds, including mandating vaccinations in some communities.

New research from Brigham Young University professors Brian Poole, Jamie Jensen and their students finds there is a better way to help increase support for vaccinations: Expose people to the pain and suffering caused by vaccine-preventable diseases instead of trying to combat people with vaccine facts.

"Vaccines are victims of their own success," said Poole, associate professor of microbiology and molecular biology. "They're so effective that most people have no experience with vaccine preventable diseases. We need to reacquaint people with the dangers of those diseases."

Poole and his team designed an intervention for college students in Provo, Utah -- a city which ranks sixth nationally for under-vaccinated kindergartners -- with the hope to improve vaccine attitudes and uptake among future parents. The experiment was carried out with 574 students, 491 of which were pro-vaccine and 83 being vaccine hesitant, according to a pre-study survey.

For the study, half the students were asked to interview someone who experienced a vaccine-preventable disease such as polio, while the other half (serving as the control group) interviewed someone with an auto-immune disease. Meanwhile some students were also enrolled in courses that contained intense immune and vaccine-related curriculum while others were enrolled in a course with no vaccine curriculum.

One student interviewed a member of their church congregation who had shingles, recalling, "The pain was so bad that she ended up at a pain management clinic where they did steroid shots into her spine. The pain meds didn't even touch her pain, even the heavy ones. For months, she couldn't leave the house." Another student interviewed her grandmother, who suffered from tuberculosis. The student said of the experience: "I dislike the idea of physical suffering, so hearing about someone getting a disease made the idea of getting a disease if I don't get vaccinated seem more real."

Researchers found nearly 70 percent of the students who interviewed someone with a vaccine-preventable disease moved from vaccine hesitant to pro-vaccine by the end of the study -- even when they had NO vaccine curriculum. Overall, 75 percent of vaccine-hesitant students increased their vaccine attitude scores, with 50 percent of those students moving fully into pro-vaccine attitudes.

The researchers also found all vaccine-hesitant students enrolled in a course with intensive vaccine curriculum significantly increased their vaccine attitude scores, with the majority of them moving into the pro-vaccine category.

"If your goal is to affect people's decisions about vaccines, this process works much better than trying to combat anti-vaccine information," Poole said. "It shows people that these diseases really are serious diseases, with painful and financial costs, and people need to take them seriously."

Poole and coauthors hope other universities and government agencies will see their findings and consider using similar methods to improve vaccine attitudes. Graduate student Deborah K. Johnson served as lead author on the paper, which published this last week in the journal Vaccines.
-end-


Brigham Young University

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.