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Open Access How Storytelling Can Combat Vaccine Hesitancy: a Transdisciplinary Approach

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The recent decline in vaccination rates across Europe has led to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles. Although there have always been persons opposed to vaccination, in recent years an increasing number of parents are losing confidence in or are being complacent about vaccinating their children. Given the accessibility of information on the internet, parents are actively and independently researching vaccines. They are exposed to negative claims about vaccines that appeal to their emotions and emotional stories tend make parents doubt vaccinations. By contrast, most positive vaccine messages focus on providing information through scientific data which has proven to be ineffective for some hesitant parents.

Vaccine hesitancy can only be understood by looking at it from different perspectives and by exchanging knowledge between multiple fields of study. A transdisciplinary approach, in which individuals with different backgrounds search for solutions together, is necessary to be able to provide one or more solutions to the problem. Therefore, we spent eight months trying to solve part of this wicked problem from a transdisciplinary perspective. Based on literature reviews of different topics within vaccine hesitancy, interviews with hesitant parents, interactions with various stakeholders within and outside academia, and analyses of popular views on social media concerning vaccines, we question the effectiveness of the current pro-vaccine approaches. We also suggest adopting ‘storytelling’ that incorporates scientific data to inform parents and we argue that narratives are intrinsically persuasive as they are easier to understand and could prove more effective than traditional scientific communication. We expect that this strategy will contribute to the increase in and maintenance of high vaccination coverage rates and stop the circulation and outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases.
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Keywords: Anti-vaxx; Vaccination coverage; Vaccination rates; Vaccine Confidence; Vaccine Hesitancy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Honours Program Transdisciplinary Insights, Leuven, Belgium 2: KU Leuven - University of Leuven, PhD Student, Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Leuven, Belgium 3: KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, Leuven University Vaccinology Center, Leuven, Belgium

Publication date: December 15, 2018

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  • Transdisciplinary Insights (TI) is an open access student journal dedicated to giving a forum to transdisciplinary research and systems thinking. The journal communicates the results of cross-disciplinary collaboration by masters students and early career researchers, stimulated by the KU Leuven Honours Programme, in close interaction with societal actors. This ambitious journal will present refreshing outside-the-box insights and new ideas that have the potential to find their way to the established research environment. All contributions are peer-reviewed and meet academic quality standards.
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