When the WHO reports on a global decline in childhood vaccinations around the world

People around the world, including in Israel, are sick and tired of getting more vaccinations – thanks to the many shots they had to get against the COVID-19 virus. As a result, the rates of going for flu, measles, whooping cough, and other shots and other to protect adults and children have dropped significantly. In Israel alone, a few thousand people – from infants to the elderly – have been hospitalized and even put in intensive-care units this winter due to complications of the flu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted a global decline – the largest sustained drop in around three decades – in childhood vaccinations needed to protect against devastating but preventable diseases.How can the health system significantly improve attitudes toward n international study has shown for the first time how empathetic correction of misinformation among vaccine-hesitant patients can significantly improve attitudes towards lifesaving vaccinations, correct misinformation and boost vaccine uptake?

The research, led by the University of Bristol, discovered a new style of communication that could help build and maintain a positive relationship with health professionals, increasing trust and public confidence. Its findings, just published on Tuesday in the journal Health Psychology entitled “The empathetic refutational interview to tackle vaccine misconceptions: four randomized experiments” found that more than two-thirds of vaccine-hesitant study participants who received empathetic engagement from a healthcare professional preferred this compared with a group who were just told the facts.

Lead author Dr. Dawn Holford, a senior psychology research associate, said: “Although we expected people to generally respond more positively to an empathetic approach, it was surprising how much greater the preference for this style of communication was among those who expressed concerns about vaccination. Our study highlights how the way misinformation is tackled, especially with vaccine-averse groups, can play a vital role in changing perceptions which can be hard to shift.”

The study, which involved more than 2,500 participants in the UK and US, compared their response to direct, factual communication with a novel dialogue-based technique empathizing with their views, while also addressing false or misleading anti-vaccination arguments.

The results of the new approach

The results showed participants overall preferred the new approach, known as “empathetic refutational interviewing” – and this response was strongest for the vaccine-hesitant, who found it more compelling than being presented purely with facts.

THE WORLD Health Organization has issued a statement that Wegovy is not a ‘silver bullet’ for the ever-worsening obesity crises. (credit: JIM VONDRUSKA/REUTERS)

Two-thirds of the participants who experienced the empathetic refutational interview also indicated they were more willing to continue the conversation with a healthcare professional, and around 12% became more willing to be vaccinated compared to those participants who received the factual approach.

The interview technique comprises a four-step process. First, the patient is invited to share their thoughts and concerns about vaccination so that healthcare professionals can understand their motivations and reservations. Then understanding and trust are built by affirming the patient’s feelings and concerns. Third, a tailored explanation is provided to challenge misconceptions, offering a truthful alternative to any misinformed beliefs. Finally, relevant facts about vaccination are provided, such as how they can benefit the individual by guarding against disease as well as collectively protecting others by reducing the spread and building vaccine-induced herd immunity.

Holford explained that “our findings actively demonstrate the power of communication that healthcare professionals can use in their daily roles. Our study shows it is possible to gain trust and change minds if we take people’s concerns seriously and tailor our approach to help them make informed decisions about their health. This is hugely encouraging, especially with the growing influence of misinformation and fake news worldwide.”

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