As a mom, vaccines are always on my mind. Just this morning, I found myself touring a prospective school for my toddler and asking about the vaccination rates of his potential classmates.
While the anti-vaccine celebrities get (too much) press, I’d like to give a shout out to the celebrity moms who side with science and passionately advocate for vaccination. I first wrote about this topic in 2013 when I was pleasantly surprised to see the TDAP vaccine being promoted on an episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”.
With celebrity moms having such a public platform, I became curious about how closely their messages align with the barriers that we know stand between children and their vaccinations. In a nice review of patient barriers to immunizations, Hendriksz et al describe three types: (1) miseducation and misconceptions of patients, (2) fear and anxiety of immunization pain, and (3) lack of access (perceived and real) to immunizations.
I’m happy to report that many celebrity moms are sharing safe and important messages that address key barriers to vaccines, especially in the arena of miseducation and misconceptions.
#1: Addressing concerns about vaccine safety
Hillary Clinton told over 3 million followers on Twitter that science has shown vaccines are safe and effective.
#2 Educating parents about herd immunity (i.e., your decision doesn’t just affect you!)
Olivia Wilde reminded over 1 million followers on Twitter that vaccines are about protecting our whole community (especially those that are too young or unable to be vaccinated).
#3 Helping parents understand risk
We’ve heard time and again that the success of vaccination programs have led us to feel too safe. As community recollection of these terrible diseases disappears, we can become complacent.
Amanda Peet is a constant reminder that our babies and other vulnerable community members are at risk. She describes how her daughter contracted whooping cough in 2010 and how that experience motivated her to advocate for vaccination.
Jennifer Lopez also lends her voice to help parents understand that diseases like whooping cough can be deadly. Her PSA “Sounds of Pertussis” shows parents just how frightening it would be to hear your child struggling to breathe. She also highlights the role parents play in the spread of the disease since many of the babies who get whooping cough are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.
Why does it matter what celebrities think about vaccination? Well- I found out on my tour that there is one unvaccinated child in my son’s prospective school. I also learned that there are several students who are on delayed vaccination schedules. I’m about to send my former premature baby out into the world and I want to understand how public health can best support parents to ensure he will have vaccinated classmates. One of the key factors in effective health communication is identifying the information sources that are considered credible and influential by the intended audience(s). For many people, celebrities are those trusted sources of medical advice and models of health behavior. So I am grateful that celebrity moms whether they are Kardashian or Lopez, are siding with science and communicating these important facts to millions and millions of people.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TDAP- Vaccine Information Statement. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.html. Retrieved 4/15/15.
Hendriksz, T, Malouf, PJ, Sarmiento, S, Foy, JE. Overcoming patient barriers to immunizations. American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Health Watch. October 2013. http://www.cecity.com/aoa/healthwatch/oct_13/print3.pdf. Retrieved 4/15/15.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Community Immunity. Available at: http://www.vaccines.gov/basics/protection/. Retrieved 4/15/15.
Mother Jones. To the Parent of the Unvaccinated Child Who Exposed My Family to Measles. February 2, 2015. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/open-letter-parent-unvaccinated-child-measles-exposure. Retrieved 4/15/15.
People Magazine. Amanda Peet: I ‘Feel Passionately’ About Life-Saving Shots. May 15, 2012. http://celebritybabies.people.com/2012/05/15/amanda-peet-shot-at-life-psa-whooping-cough/. Retrieved 4/15/15.
Sounds of Pertussis PSA with Jennifer Lopez. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMLNcc9IxX0&feature=youtu.be. Retrieved 4/15/15.
CDC Help Protect Babies From Whooping Cough. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/features/pertussis/. Retrieved 4/15/15.
National Cancer Institute. Making health communications programs work. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/publications/health-communication/pink-book.pdf. Retrieved 4/15/15.
Hoffman, SJ and Tan, C. Following celebrities’ medical advice: meta-narrative analysis. BMJ. 2013; 347: f7151. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898586/. Retrieved 4/15/15.