Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editor's Choice

What should we do about vaccine hesitancy?

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: (Published 06 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4044

Rapid Response:

Re: What should we do about vaccine hesitancy?

It was not that long ago when vaccination was, quite literally, the talk of the town. Infectious disease was an ever-present fear in the minds of parents, reinforced by morbid reports of sick and disabled children. Vaccines were embraced by the world and brought with them a new age of medicine. Presently, the fear that once gripped parents is no more. The threat of infectious disease is out of sight and out of mind, replaced by tabloid reports on side effects and additives; leaving many wondering if all these visits to the doctor are essential.

Medical school teaches upcoming doctors many things, but there is one lesson you will not find in your trusty cheese & onion; people do not share the same values. It is easy to fall into the trap that medical values such as getting plenty of exercise, not smoking, and eating a balanced diet, are as evident to everyone as they are to us. They are not.

As the number of people hesitant to engage with vaccination services grow, the world seems to be taking a stance of fighting fire with fire; debates of banning unvaccinated children from school and making vaccination compulsory. These people are not ignorant or uneducated; they have legitimate questions but do not have easy access to the information they need. What they do have is unlimited and easy access to Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and tabloid articles spreading misinformation and distrust towards medical professionals. Is it not apparent that pushing these people away is just going to make it easier for these outlets to pull them closer?

Outside of the healthcare setting, I do not think I have ever seen something promoting the benefits of vaccination. A poster in the GP waiting room or at the counter of the local pharmacy is all well and good, but are they not just preaching to the choir? Health promotion needs a booster shot; the message needs to be in the same place the opposition speaks, and it needs to be loud. As of writing, the official NHS Facebook page [1] has between 15-150 ‘shares’ per post. This might sound impressive, but considering that half of all parents with small children have been exposed to misinformation regarding vaccines on social media [2], we could be doing better. If you want to fight fire with fire, first get on the same battlefield.

1. NHS. official facebook page. Accessed June 7, 2019.

2. Royal Society for Public Health. Moving the Needle: Promoting Vaccination Uptake across the Life Course.; 2019.

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 June 2019
Jack J Broadbent
Medical Student
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry