A new Approach to Dealing with Vax Hesitancy

By Dale Dauten, Syndicated Columnist

We all want to convince people who are “vaccine hesitant” to change their minds. But over the past few years we’ve been told all the things that do NOT work…

  • CDC-ing THEM: Reciting factual data (yawn) — no impact on beliefs.
  • DEBATING THEM: telling hesitant parents they’re wrong (“Oh, yeah?) — can harden negative attitudes.
  • SCARING THEM: discussing complications and showing disease photos (look away!) — can bump up fear levels and turn parents away from vaccines.

BUT… there is one approach that has shown promise — it amounts to this: TELLING A BETTER STORY.

Photo by Ben White

For instance, in one study by psychologists at UCLA and the University of Illinois, a positive shift in vax attitudes came after reading a mother’s harrowing tale of three days of being at the side of her ten-month old son as he nearly died from measles.

So if the answer is telling a better story,
why not get a professional storyteller involved?

That is exactly what a new documentary aims to do,
you’re invited to join in.

Chris with his Emmys

Chris Schueler, who heads Christopher Productions, specializing in social issue documentaries, has won 21 Emmys over two decades. He says, “Our motto is ‘Television to touch the heart.’ We give people facts, but in a compelling way, with emotion, with stories.”

Schueler has tackled topics such as teen pregnancy, bullying and child abuse. When Dr. Walter Dehority, pediatric infectious disease specialist, saw the company’s “Teen Obesity Prevention” film, done for the National Institute of Public Health, he sought out Schueler to explore the topic of vaccinations. As Schueler told us, “I sat down with Dr. Dehority and I was hooked.”

That leaves the question: What kind of stories to tell vax-hesitant parents? 

Bryan Cranston directd by Chris

Schueler says that the answer will emerge out of their extensive research process He plans 5-10 “think tanks” where his team visits with experts. He will also lead a series of conversations with those in the target audience; that is, with vax hesitant parents. He says, “We will know the stories to tell when we know why they are hesitant. We figure out where they live and how they think and how they came to their attitudes, how they get their information and what and who persuades them.

Then we build a message designed for them and their thinking. We’ll use how they think to change what they believe.” Schueler added, a twinkle in his voice, “It’s kind of subversive, isn’t it?”


State health departments or Statewide/regional immunization projects:

  • Schueler’s production company, Christopher Productions, is now adding sponsors and partnerships. While the documentary will be for audiences nationwide, special state and local editions can be created using state data and local experts. They can also facilitate broadcast on local television stations. Further, Schueler’s team can facilitate airing on local networks or on local PBS stations. “By starting with the national template,” Schueler explains, “We can create special materials – full length documentary, classroom videos, promos and news stories – and we can do it for a tenth of what it would cost a state to do it themselves.”

I want to get involved

Those administering vaccines Practitioners/Pharmacists/Clinics:

  • A bit further down the production schedule, Schueler will be looking for subject matter experts, and for connections to those with compelling stories.
  • Ultimately, he will of course be looking for those who can use a mini-documentary to show to patients.

I want to get involved

If you want to get involved or simply be in the loop, please go to the website and sign up for updates on the project.

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