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Real Guys Immunize

i-49ee4bbfc01d4563a8dbd1d810d03328-guyzimmunize logo.jpgLast week I went to Philadelphia to a very interesting meeting – a Social Media Summit on Immunization. Sponsored by Immunization Action Coalition, this was a second annual meeting for health-care non-profits, organized (amazingly well, with great attention to detail) by Lisa Randall (and, I am sure, a small army of helpers).

Over a day and a half of the meeting there were two simultaneous sessions at each time slot, but I did not have much opportunity to ponder my choices as I was at the front of the room at three sessions, and participated actively in several others. The style was very ‘unconference-y’, with barely any PowerPoint – we talked and showed stuff on the Web as needed.

We discussed pros and cons of using various online platforms for spreading the message about vaccinations (which also means pushing back against anti-vaccination propaganda), making sure that all of the representatives of the non-profits understand they don’t have to use all (or any) of them unless this can be useful for the work they want to do and the goal they want to achieve. But if they do feel it is necessary, we were there to explain and demonstrate how to do it: static pages, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., the best practices and strategies for using each of these platforms, the metrics for measuring the spread of their message, etc. This was a LOT of stuff, and we covered a lot of ground, but I hope we were useful.

On the second day, we had a very interesting discussion following the presentation by Anna Kata, anthropologist from McMaster University, whose recent paper, A postmodern Pandora’s box: anti-vaccination misinformation on the Internet, analyzed the arguments by the anti-vaccination groups use in their online discussions. What is most interesting is that every single one of these arguments is nothing new – each has been used from the very beginning of vaccination, in 1796, from personal attacks on Edward Jenner, to arguments about “playing God”, to fear of putting animal material into bodies, to suspecting a conspiracy by government, industry and medical profession, to arguments for personal freedom, to proposing alternative theories of health (and disease and treatments). It never really stopped, it just has some very prominent spokesemen right now, visible in the media.

What is important is that people who reject vaccination are not the uneducated and the poor. The poor tend to trust the authority of physicians and will gladly vaccinate – if they can afford it. It is the upper-middle-class, at least nominally well educated, that refuses to vaccinate their kids. Trying to change their minds by presenting them the information does not work – they do not treat that information as valid. They live in a post-modern world in which everyone is entitled to their own facts. Their notions of body, health, and disease are very holistic, very New-Agey, so medical information does not mean anything to them. But they (not the activists, but parents seeking information) can be swayed by peer pressure. And nothing works better than for them to hear, from their friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and physicians, over and over again “I vaccinated my kids, trust me, I know what I’m doing, you should vaccinate yours, too.” If people they trust vaccinate, they will start wavering in their beliefs and may end up vaccinating themselves in the end. It is that social pressure, and need to socially conform, that is much more powerful than all the medical information in the world.

As a demonstration of the way, and ease of the way, for putting together a social media strategy, a group of ‘Social Media Ninjas’, about 5-6 of them who have never met or worked together before, took over one of the rooms and all of its computers during the meeting. They had 24 hours from start to finish. They started by crowdsourcing ideas, then picking one and running with it. The one they picked was focused on explaining ‘herd immunity’ and the target audience was men.

Almost all of the activity in persuading people to vaccinate their kids targets women, as it is supposed that mothers are the only ones making decisions about their children. This leaves out half of the population. And that half of the population can really help. In some families, still in the 21st century I know, the father has the last word. In other families, mother may resist vaccines out of fear and insecurity and her husband’s support can make all the difference – they can study the issue together, discuss it and make the decision together.

So the Social Media Ninja team, in that 24-hour period, came up with the name – “Real Guys Immunize” – drew a logo, and built a static web page, which explains what this is all about, provides brief FAQs and links to external resources. It also provides an easy way for readers to post personal stories.

They started a Twitter account (and the #guysimmunize hashtag), a YouTube channel and a Facebook page. They designed an e-card for Father’s Day. They had a couple of participants write blog posts (see here and here). And they put together a cool slideshow:

They decided against making a video (24 hours was too short, and nobody in the room was a real video-maven) though this can be done later, and made other changes to the original plan as the 24 hours passed. At the very end, they presented all of that to the gathering, including the first metrics of their reach (whatever one can measure after such a short time):

The site (and everything else associated with it on social media) is not really owned by anyone – it was just an experiment done to show how such a thing is made. So, if anyone is interesting in taking over this initiative and moving it forward into the future, there is a contact e-mail there, just click.

Comments

  1. #1 cass_m
    June 29, 2010

    This is what scientists need to do for issues that effect all of us in the short term. I hope someone runs with this and develops something similar for alternate energy/pollution.

  2. #2 Lisa Randall
    June 29, 2010

    Grateful for the kind words, Bora! It was definitely a team effort. I appreciated your experienced guidance and active participation all along; thanks also for showing off Real Guys Immunize.

  3. #3 bea
    June 29, 2010

    When real guys’ children get sick right after vaccination they wake up to the sad reality of big pharma research.
    American medicine, specially vaccination, is a money machine which have nothing to do with healing.

  4. #4 Coturnix
    June 29, 2010

    And here we have an actual example of a recycled 18th century myth of Big Pharma pushing dangerous chemicals into unsuspecting people. Funny how things never change…ah.

  5. #5 Kissit
    June 30, 2010

    That you feel the need to undermine the free will of “nominally well-educated” by SHAMING them through peer pressure says it all. Especially since the most passionate are those who’ve already fallen victim to the dark side of blind faith in vaccine theory. Shame On You.

  6. #6 Coturnix
    June 30, 2010

    Emotion trumping reason? Demonstrated.

  7. #7 Kissit
    June 30, 2010

    Aw, gosh, you’re right. There really aren’t any vaccine-damaged children. Just a bunch of stupid, emotional, hysterical parents. But you’re so smart and ‘sciency’,–can you help me out? Despite my (apparently useless) doctoral degree, I just can’t manage to find any long-term outcome studies on mass vaccine, or true placebo-controlled double-blind vaccine studies, or vaccinated vs. never-unvaccinated studies that would definitively answer some very important questions. Gee, I guess I just don’t know where to look. Even a study that wasn’t tainted by vaccine manufacturers would be great. Thanks in advance.

    As for your last remark: Intellectual arrogance? Demonstrated.

  8. #8 Coturnix
    June 30, 2010

    I love how you demonstrate to my readers the ‘modus operandi’ and mental operation of anti-vaccers.

  9. #9 Kissit
    June 30, 2010

    Yeah, but what about answering my question. I really need your help. Really. I long to hear the truth. Please. Clear up my confusion. Show me. The scientific proof you speak of. Without attack, please answer the question.

    I sincerely want the facts. We all do.

  10. #10 Jerseygirl89
    July 1, 2010

    Great analysis of the conference and its message. Also, a thought for kissit: why not look at child mortality rates for countries and areas where children are not vaccinated? Compare the percentages of children here who are “vaccine-damaged” versus the death rates of children who don’t get vaccines?

  11. #11 Kissit
    July 2, 2010

    Such numbers are useless, as there are too many confounders due to the absence in undeveloped/emerging countries of simple measures like clean water or plumbing…which are shown to have the greatest impact on communicable disease rates. Why not just do a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study in this country between similar cohorts? It would be cheap, simple, and revealing.
    In addition, I’m confused about why anyone wouldn’t be curious, at least, about the parameters of health in unvaccinated children who are living in advanced civilizations. There are many assumptions being made about the role vaccines play, and a glaring absence of EVIDENCE due to a lack of properly-controlled placebo and long-term outcome studies.
    Another problem that’s presented with your suggestion is how, exactly, we determine what conditions (in children) are a direct result of vaccination.In addition to overt evidence of vaccine injury is the horrifying rise in neurological, autoimmune, and chronic conditions in our child population. How are we sure they aren’t related to vaccine?

    Is the vaccine industry afraid (for us) to see the true picture? Now that they’ve been given immunity from liability, they seem to be working hard to add more vaccines every year. Is there a price for that “progress?” Only comparative studies can adequately determine that.

  12. #12 Coturnix
    July 2, 2010

    Kissit, you obviously did not read the links on the GutsImmunize site. Or, for example, many links (see buttons on top) at: http://evilpossum.weebly.com/index.html

    You have your own belief, and you will not be swayed by evidence. You are not the target – the audience for education are people who have open minds and want to learn, not the shills for “alternative medicine” quackery and snake-oil salesemen.

  13. #13 Kissit
    July 3, 2010

    Although I’ve never been accused of being a ‘shill for alternative medicine’ I’ll take that to mean that for this audience, the important questions have been both asked and answered. I could certainly be swayed by evidence that children are better off with 36 vaccines than they were with 10, but I cannot find it. I’ve asked for your help in locating it, but you seem to have lost your curiosity about whether or not that’s true. My experience as a clinician tells me the question is far from answered, as I watch children become weaker and more vulnerable with every passing year.
    So who’s worse off? Me, with my “belief”, or you with you “knowledge”? Isn’t asking the question, with genuine curiosity, the very hallmark of the scientific method? Likewise, isn’t the lack of curiosity anti-thetical to science?

    I still have questions. You, apparently, do not. I’ll bid you farewell and stop irritating your process to assure one another that pharmaceutical medicine is ‘right’ and everyone who questions it is ‘wrong.’

  14. #14 Coturnix
    July 3, 2010

    Asking to be spoonfed information that is readily available, even after such information is linked, is not an honest call for information, it is itching for a fight.

    This is not the place for it. Am I a physician? No. Am I an epidemiologist? No. Am I an immunologist? No. Do I have to spoonfeed trolls on my own personal blog just because they demand so? No. I gave you the links. Go get informed.

  15. #15 cynic
    July 5, 2010

    Sorry to butt into your generalization of vaccine skepticism, but you said:

    And here we have an actual example of a recycled 18th century myth of Big Pharma pushing dangerous chemicals into unsuspecting people.

    I didn’t take that from Kissit’s post. Not at all. Are pharmaceutical companies publicly traded corporations? Yes. They are. When their feet are held to the fire and they are forced to produce data in a court of law, they have also been found guilty of behaving nefariously. People have died because of this behaviour. These same publicly traded corporations are responsible for the vaccine supply… so you are either naive to the ethics surrounding corporations and believe they would never put profit before the people, or you are deflecting Kissit’s position with your own recycled rebuttal. I suspect it’s the latter.

    I gave you the links. Go get informed.

    That’s not how you construct an argument. If your links answer the reasonable questions posed by kissit, then you should have no trouble demonstrating why. When presented with questions that run counter to your assertions, it is upon you demonstrate why the “links” you offer as evidence make the questions posed irrelevant, or “already answered”. You have failed to adequately support your position.

    I’m not sure I’d qualify David Brown as an expert in anything, and considering his behaviour regarding Poul Thorsen, I’m more inclined to abstain from him in general. People that are incapable of admitting fault, are not people that I deem reliable. We all are presented with opportunities for the mea culpa, only those who are able to realise its application are those who have meaningful things to say.

    You are not the target – the audience for education are people who have open minds and want to learn, not the shills for “alternative medicine” quackery and snake-oil salesemen.

    This is an ad hominem argument, with a little bit of guilt by association tossed in. As to the meat of your post, I find it fairly nauseating. Like this:

    If people they trust vaccinate, they will start wavering in their beliefs and may end up vaccinating themselves in the end. It is that social pressure, and need to socially conform, that is much more powerful than all the medical information in the world.

    I wonder how Phoebe Prince’s mother (or Lucinda Franks) would feel about your suggestion that peer pressure is an effective delivery tool? The effectiveness of any preventive measure must address outcomes against a control group (deflecting this obvious observation with regurgitated ad hominems doesn’t change that). There is no interest from the medical community to measure the outcomes of vaccinated children, and their nonvaccinated counterparts. This is grossly unscientific, and the “middle class educated” masses are realizing it. I don’t see how bullying them with the same junk science is going to make a difference… except when it turns into violence. We can all thank you for your contribution when that happens, I guess.

  16. #16 Coturnix
    July 5, 2010

    I am not discussing vaccines on this blog, nor in this post. I am discussing social media. There are plenty of places online to discuss vaccines if you want. I gave you some links where to go…

  17. #17 cynic
    July 5, 2010

    I am not discussing vaccines on this blog, nor in this post.

    Really? From your post:

    #1 We discussed pros and cons of using various online platforms for spreading the message about vaccinations (which also means pushing back against anti-vaccination propaganda)

    #2 What is most interesting is that every single one of these arguments is nothing new – each has been used from the very beginning of vaccination, in 1796, from personal attacks on Edward Jenner, to arguments about “playing God”, to fear of putting animal material into bodies, to suspecting a conspiracy by government, industry and medical profession, to arguments for personal freedom, to proposing alternative theories of health (and disease and treatments).

    Then you address the bullying part, that I found particularly disturbing, or discuss how or why women are so fragile in their decisions that they need a man to tell them what to do as it relates to vaccination.

    Your post generated response from dissenting opinion, probably stemming from #2 above in an effort to explain that the dissent isn’t what you think it is. People that are trying to understand why the ACIP recommended vaccinating day old babies in 1991 without ANY safety data, whatsoever, don’t really fit into your generalized comment. Nor does the expansion of the infant schedule since the inception of Vaccine Court. Reasonable people are just asking the right questions… they’re doing it on facebook too, and vaccine dogma is just as prevalent there as it is on Respectful Insolence.

    From your comments:

    #1 I love how you demonstrate to my readers the ‘modus operandi’ and mental operation of anti-vaccers.

    #2 You have your own belief, and you will not be swayed by evidence [of vaccines?]

    #3 Asking to be spoonfed information that is readily available, even after such information is linked, is not an honest call for information, it is itching for a fight.

    It seems you are the one itching for a fight, since you were the one slinging vaccine rejection philosophy about. You just didn’t think someone wouldn’t agree.

    There are plenty of places online to discuss vaccines if you want. I gave you some links where to go…

    No thanks, I’m actually blue in the face over the discussion, but was prompted to address your opinions as they relate to peer pressure about vaccination…and that it is a reckless position (and a little sociopathic), and in the right legal hands it would be aptly demonstrated.

    That said, I remain where I was placed four years ago after witnessing convulsions and seizures after the 2 month round with my son (AFTER vaccinating two children mind you… and his reaction was adequately denied as being related to vaccination in any way, shape or form)… and that is firmly planted in the vaccine skeptical camp. No amount of Facebooking, Tweeting, or bullying me via social pressure will change my mind either. Honest discussion and research into what has been addressed in your comments is what I will require, and there are a lot of parents out there just like me… reasonable and open to vaccinating, but alienated for all the wrong reasons.