Should we stigmatize the unvaccinated to convince them to reach out?

The high rate of reluctance of parents to have their child vaccinated could limit the collective benefits of immunization for 5 to 11 year olds. The stigmatization of the unvaccinated, on the other hand, constitutes the “worst strategy” to convince them.

“We must not put pressure on either the children or the parents,” Prime Minister François Legault insisted at a press conference last week. “We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where children would be stigmatized if they are not vaccinated. It’s a personal choice. “

The stigmatization of the unvaccinated against COVID-19 is indeed “the worst strategy” to convince someone who hesitates, according to Arnaud Gagneur, specialist in vaccine hesitation.

He also banned the term “convince” from his studies. “We want to motivate them. We want it to come from them. “

Mr. Gagneur is at the origin of an innovative approach in this area: the “Motivational interview program in maternity hospitals for the immunization of children” (EMMIE). First conceived in Estrie ten years ago under the name “Promovac”, the formula was developed to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated against childhood diseases such as whooping cough, meningitis or tetanus. This method has since been taken over bycoronavirus+ – + November 29 + # s3 “target =” _ blank “> Health Canada in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

“Often it’s people repeating what they hear. The reflex is to judge and say that it is stupid to believe that, ”explains the researcher associated with the University of Sherbrooke. However, “the majority of people who hesitate are people who are sensible, who reflect and who ask themselves questions. When you start to stigmatize them, look down on them, that doesn’t work. “

The stigma polarizes and “reinforces communitarianism,” he notes. People then position themselves “as misunderstood”, experience a feeling of victimization and “generate revolt”.

The key lies in “empowerment”, listening, empathy, receiving questions “with kindness”, all “in a climate of non-judgment and respect”.

Among parents who received advice from someone trained in EMMIE, “the level of reluctance was reduced by 40%.” The approach has been tested with “very hesitant” parents, who represent around 15% of the population. “After the intervention, only 5% were still very hesitant,” says Gagneur.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, this is what it means for you and for others. I don’t judge you for what you decide, but you have to understand that your decision has an impact on you, your child and the general population ”, exemplifies the specialist.

This proven method of convincing the hesitant is starting to spread across the world. Arnaud Gagneur trained vaccination advisers in Romania this summer and plans to try the experiment in France soon.

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