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Reframing the Conversation About Vaccinations

Public discourse about childhood and adolescent vaccinations in the United States has been, at times, controversial, fraught, and even emotional. How we talk about vaccines plays a critically important role in shaping attitudes about the role and benefits of vaccination, as well as policies that increase access to vaccines.


This new strategic brief, produced in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, includes evidence-based recommendations and tested metaphors to help generate a more productive public discourse about vaccination. The recommendations reflect what we think of as a two-part approach to shifting the narrative:


Shifting the focus from the individual to the collective: Americans tend to think about health from an individualistic perspective—as an issue of choice and willpower. When it comes to vaccination, this perspective obscures the reality of the broader benefits that vaccination has on communities and society. It also makes it difficult for people to see how systemic barriers to vaccination affect people’s ability to get their children vaccinated. Instead, we should highlight the ways in which vaccination has a positive impact on everyone in our communities.


Shifting the focus from vaccines fighting disease to the immune system preparing itself: Widespread misinformation about vaccinations, particularly for measles and COVID-19, has stoked a fear about what vaccines might “do” to an individual. Instead of making vaccines the hero of the story, we need to highlight how the immune system uses vaccines to prepare itself to deal with illness and disease. This shift in emphasis expands people’s understanding of how vaccines work and reduces fears about vaccination.

Whether we are sharing information about vaccines on social media, in a news interview, in a blog post, or when talking with policymakers, effective framing in the public sphere can ultimately help us shape public attitudes about vaccination and its benefits to all of us.


Save the date!


We hope you’ll join the FrameWorks Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics on Wednesday, March 15 from 12:00–1:00pm ET for a deeper explanation of the research and what it means for how we communicate. A formal invitation is forthcoming, but we encourage you to mark your calendars now!


Trish Coupal at 11:19 AM
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