Alex Olgin at NPR: “In 2017, Kim Nelson had just moved her family back to her hometown in South Carolina. Boxes were still scattered around the apartment, and while her two young daughters played, Nelson scrolled through a newspaper article on her phone. It said religious exemptions for vaccines had jumped nearly 70 percent in recent years in the Greenville area — the part of the state she had just moved to.
She remembers yelling to her husband in the other room, “David, you have to get in here! I can’t believe this.”
Up until that point, Nelson hadn’t run into mom friends who didn’t vaccinate
Nelson started her own group, South Carolina Parents for Vaccines. She began posting scientific articles online. She started responding to private messages from concerned parents with specific questions. She also found that positive reinforcement was important and would roam around the mom groups, sprinkling affirmations.
“If someone posts, ‘My child got their two-months shots today,’ ” Nelson says, she’d quickly post a follow-up comment: “Great job, mom!”
Nelson was inspired by peer-focused groups around the country doing similar work. Groups with national reach like Voices for Vaccines and regional groups like Vax Northwest in Washington state take a similar approach, encouraging parents to get educated and share facts about vaccines with other parents….
Public health specialists are raising concerns about the need to improve vaccination rates. But efforts to reach vaccine-hesitant parents often fail. When presented with facts about vaccine safety, parents often remained entrenched in a decision not to vaccinate.
Pediatricians could play a role — and many do — but they’re not compensated to have lengthy discussions with parents, and some of them find it a frustrating task. That has left an opening for alternative approaches, like Nelson’s.
Nelson thought it would be best to zero in on moms who were still on the fence about vaccines.
“It’s easier to pull a hesitant parent over than it is somebody who is firmly anti-vax,” Nelson says. She explains that parents who oppose vaccination often feel so strongly about it that they won’t engage in a discussion. “They feel validated by that choice — it’s part of