South Carolina mom fights vaccine fears with facts

South Carolina mother Kim Nelson started a vaccine advocacy group to help reach vaccine-hesitant families, NPR reports.

Ms. Nelson's group is called South Carolina Parents for Vaccines. The mother of two started posting scientific articles online and responding to private messages from parents with questions about vaccines.

Ms. Nelson was inspired by peer-focused groups that encourage parents to get educated on vaccines, such as the national group Voices for Vaccines and regional groups like Vax Northwest in Washington state.

Although 91 percent of U.S. children ages 19 to 35 months old have their vaccination for measles, and rates for other vaccinations range from 82 percent  to 92 percent, some communities have much lower rates.

In Clark County, Wash., where a measles outbreak is up to 63 cases, about 76 percent of kindergartners go to school without all their vaccines.

Public health specialists are raising concerns about the need to improve vaccination rates, but often struggle to reach vaccine-hesitant parents. These parents frequently remain entrenched in their choice not to vaccinate even after being presented with facts about vaccine safety.

Ms. Nelson thought it would be best to focus on reaching moms who were not certain about vaccines.

"It's easier to pull a hesitant parent over than it is somebody who is firmly anti-vax," she said.

She said parents who oppose vaccination often feel so strongly about it that they will not engage in a discussion.

"They feel validated by that choice — it's part of community, it's part of their identity," she said.

To help spread vaccine facts, Ms. Nelson tries to counter bad information online. She organized a class at a public library and advertised the event on mom forums. The class helped new moms better understand the risks of not vaccinating their children.

Now, Ms. Nelson is trying to get local hospitals to integrate that vaccine talk into their birthing classes.

More articles on clinical leadership & infection control:
CDC: US measles cases already surpass 2016, 2017 totals
Why CRISPR may work when vaccines don't
Experimental Ebola vaccine OK'd for pregnant women

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