Guest blog by: Lesley Maisey
As adults, we rely on our foundation of life experience and knowledge to guide our decision making. The difficulty lies in the areas where our knowledge is perhaps biased, negatively influenced by media, or incomplete. The question then becomes how do we as health professionals change someone’s opinion on a hot topic such as influenza immunization with all the misinformation and fear mongering about vaccines? The short answer is education.
I had an opportunity to test this with a group of firefighters during the BC immunization campaign for the 2012-2013 flu season. Last year was unique as policy on influenza immunization had changed for this season for firefighters. In their role as first responders, the mandate was either receive your annual flu shot or wear a mask prior to entering any patient care situation.
Many firefighters arrived at the clinic to receive the flu shot but many felt they were under duress. This resistance was stemming from two main areas of thought: firstly, people like to have choices and resent being backed into a corner with no perceived option. Secondly, the amount of misinformation about the flu vaccine circulating in the news and in day to day conversation was enough to overwhelm the average person. This leaves people with an uneasy feeling that something must be wrong.
In the case of the reluctant firefighters, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to educate either one on one or in small groups about the benefits of receiving flu vaccine. I was able to provide accurate health information and dispelled some of the tales that abound regarding vaccines. In the case of these firefighters, the end result was the highest compliance rate I have seen yet with regards to influenza immunizations. Adults like to understand why something is important. Armed with information, many of the firefighters who initially declined a flu shot ended up completing a consent form and receiving the shot.
Moving forward to next season, initial resistance can be overcome with education. It is important to take the time to address people’s concerns, dispel the myths and provide the individual with accurate information in order to assist with informed consent.
Education is critical in countering the anti-vaccine propaganda. Propaganda is equivalent to a virus as it is just as infectious and contagious. Let’s work on getting everyone the antidote in the form of information.
Learn more about immunization here: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/
Lesley Maisey, RN, BSN, COHN(C), MA
Occupational Health Nurse