Looking through the memes in this article, it’s clear that the current online discourse between pro- and anti-vaccination campaigners is not productive.
To change minds, we need to take a more empathetic approach, considering why people hold a belief and how they see themselves and their opponents. It is of course important to challenge false claims, but it’s just as important to consider how we make those challenges.
Anti-vaxxer memes show a movement strongly characterised by distrust of big business and the scientific claims that underpin vaccines, so we need to acknowledge where the research community has played a role in creating these concerns and address them. Ongoing controversies over ‘sponsorship bias’ in research relating to tobacco, antidepressants and sugar consumption reduce the credibility of research as a whole. Advocating for vaccination needs to be based on robust evidence free from perceptions of bias.
We may never persuade the hardcore anti-vaxxers, but we might have sway over those people that they influence. This requires honest communication and debate with the curious and unsure, which doesn’t begin with personal attacks and insults.
We need to ask ourselves: What would a truly persuasive pro-vaccine meme look like? And how could we get there?