By Everyone At What's The Harm?
We are often asked how to best approach an AVer (anti-vaxer), or how to sway someone about to fall for their bullshit. We don’t claim to have the answer to these questions, nor are the answers one size fits all, however we do have some experience on these matters. Below is a collaborative effort from all the Facebook and website admins regarding methods that best work(ed) for them. This is also in no way a complete compilation since we are constantly trying new techniques, and sometimes discover a new successful approach. That being said, this is a list of the most common and effective means we have experienced thus far.
!!VERY IMPORTANT!! Do not expect universal results.
**This is only for soft-core AVers or those OTF (on the fence). These suggestions will not work on hard-core AVers since very few of us possess the psych degree needed to approach them**
-Use facts and the “I’m a mom too” trust. If they're only a little down the rabbit hole they're usually receptive.
- Explain how it would have to be a world wide cover up for the anti-vax side to be true.
-Ask a lot of questions
-Introduce personal stories (the AVers really have this down, but it works for us too)
-Introduce yourself as well as any relevant stories
-NEVER shut down anyone’s opinion
-Even if they're blatantly wrong, generally stay cool and find an example to change the course of the conversation.
An OTF AVer is generally easy to spot in an AV group. An example of an OTF AVer post will usually look something like this:
“Why don’t you vaccinate? What made you make the choice not to vaccinate? I have been doing research and I am struggling with what is the right choice. I’d like to hear some of your stories.”
Once you see an OTF post, don’t address the OP (original post[er]) openly in the group. You’ll be drowned out in AV bullshit. Instead, message them privately mentioning you seen their post and ask questions like:
“What was it you believed before when you vaccinated your child?”
“What has made you undecided now?”
“Have you joined a lot of groups?”
ALWAYS TRY AND ASK QUESTIONS AS THOUGH YOU REALLY WANT TO UNDERSTAND.
Try and connect but be honest. Mention how you study health/medicine/the vaccine debate/ or even admin a page, group, or website. Assure them you are not conversing in hopes of swaying them one way or another, but you are reaching out in case there is any information you can provide that can ease their dilemma, or answer any questions, or even just be a sounding block for them.
If they ask you a question, answer honestly and avoid bringing the debate in to your answer. For example: “Do you think vaccines work?” Answer “Yes I do. I learned how they work and the only way to achieve immunity is by a vaccine or by catching the illness, and suffering with an illness is more riskier and less fun.” Don’t add “The AV stats and propaganda you hear all the time are just lies used to manipulate you.” Of course that last bit is true but stick to speaking positively about vaccines and avoid speaking negatively about AVers. This isn’t about you or the vaccine debate. This is solely about reaching out to a mom struggling with an important parenting choice and your desire to be of any assistance.
Always try and reiterate how the information overload must be scary and overwhelming, and you understand how this is a difficult decision.
If/when you’re asked what you were doing hanging around an AV group be honest yet relatable. Explain how you like to understand their side of the issue in case there’s something you’ve missed and you like to be as informed as possible. Also let them know that you are looking for people who are undecided so you can help provide answers that aren’t censored by the group since any positive vaccine comments aren’t allowed in these groups. Let then know this is why you messaged the OP.
Even though you are trying to relate to them, don’t try and find a middle ground in vaccine science. Never compromise what’s been proven. Don’t give in and say “maybe the flu shot or HPV could be avoided but all other vaccines are safe.” All the vaccines are safe and giving the impression one isn’t safe only leaves the impression that others may prove not to be as well. Plus, like stated above, it’s important to remain honest and open with OTF AVers. Suggesting one of the approved vaccines could be skipped due to safety concerns is not being honest.
Don’t accuse those with stories of vaccine injuries of lying. Instead, explain how children change and change often. Just because a change happens during vaccine months does not mean vaccines caused the change. Point out how no medicine, let alone vaccines, are that powerful and capable of permanently changing a person’s mental makeup in one shot, or causing autism, auto immune disorders etc... Also point out how many age milestone doctor visits give out vaccines in the first two years of life. According to the CDC schedule kids are vaccinated upon birth, at one month, two months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months of age. During these 24 months babies change in a million ways. By AV logic walking should also be blamed on vaccines.
Explain that yes, there are often side affects such as fever, rash, soreness at injection site, tiredness, muscle aches, all of which are temporary and easily remedied. These are also signs that the vaccine is working and stimulating the immune system so the immune system can remember the virus in the future and already have a successful plan of attack. More serious reactions such as allergic reaction, are a lot less common and some are still easily remedied. For a reaction to cause death is almost non-existent. The number of deaths related to a vaccine are fewer than one in a million.
If your OTF AVer is still not convinced, recommend they check out some less biased groups than your typical AV groups, and even typical PV groups. Good recommendations are Vax vs Anti-Vax, and Vaccines -On The Fence. Or refer them to any literature on-line that you find could be most helpful to them.
Feel free to suggest they check out your page, group, and/or site as well. It gives the impression of openness on your part, plus, since they’ve already talked with one of the creators they may be more likely to listen to what the venue has to say.
If all else fails, resort to funny, savage, and/or dank memes about anything. People can always relate over a good meme. Then, if the opportunity presents itself again, maybe try again at a later date. Do try and check in with them periodically though. Once people realize they are still thought of by someone else then tend to appreciate this and drop their guard.
These attempts require a lot of patience, and the ability to bite one’s tongue. Not everyone is built for this. I know that I myself am no where near as successful as the other admins. But if you find yourself to be someone who can handle frusteration and present a lot of patience, then consider trying a couple of these suggestions. We’d love to hear your results!