The best way to prove anti-vaxxers wrong in minutes, according to scientists

IF you’ve ever argued with an anti-vaxxer, you’ll know it’s a pointless fight as their views are cemented.

But scientists believe they know the best way to silence them – and it could also help persuade those who are dubious about the jabs.

Researchers from the University of Illinois recruited 315 participants in their study, which took place in 2015.

The participants were randomly split into three groups after being quizzed about their views on vaccines.

The first group looked at material which challenged anti-vaxxers’ opinions. 

The second group focused on material that showed the risk of measles, mumps and rubella – for which children are vaccinated for at a young age with the MMR jab.

These people saw tragic images of sick children and read a paragraph written by a mum about her child's infection with measles.

A third group read about a subject not related to vaccination at all.

Afterwards, participants re-answered questions on their attitudes towards vaccination.

The study found that when people were shown the harms of a disease, they were more likely to change their opinion on vaccination.

Those who saw the impact of measles mumps and rubella on young kids, and therefore saw the risks posed by not getting jabs, thought more positively about vaccination after.

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"Actually, the largest effect sizes were for people who were the most skeptical,” said graduate student Zachary Horne, who conducted the study with psychology professor John Hummel and others.

He added: "Perhaps we need to direct people's attention to the other aspect of the decision.

“You may be focused on the risk of getting the shot. But there's also the risk of not getting the shot. You or your child could get measles."

The study was conducted several years ago before Covid had emerged.

But the findings may still apply today, when people are fearful of getting the coronavirus vaccines despite high circulation of the virus.

Dr Andrew Preston, Department of Biology and Biochemistry at University of Bath, previously told The Sun that highlighting the dangers of not getting the jab was one of the best ways to convince someone to get it.

He said: “Most people are aware there was very high child mortality in the middle of the last century.

“Ask them – why don't we see as many cases of measles now? Why doesn't whooping cough kill hundreds of thousands of babies every year? And why are we not losing hundreds of teenagers to meningitis each year?

“It doesn't take long for people to realise that it's vaccination.”

Covid jabs could be approved for children aged five to 12 years old in a matter of days, as case numbers are highest in that age group.

Last month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the vaccine.

Less than half have gotten their first dose (46 per cent) after the rollout started in England on September 20, suggesting parents are cautious.

UNVACCINATED IN UK 

In the UK, there are almost five million adults who still don’t have a vaccine dose and are at serious risk of Covid disease.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, was asked about how to deal with this group of people at the Commons Health and Social Care Committee on Thursday.

He said there is in fact only a “very small” number of people who believe “weird conspiracy theories” and will never get vaccinated.

But a large number of people “just haven’t got round to it”, he said.

Prof Whitty added that the people who believe in antivax theories are “normal people '' who may just be hesitant to get their jab.

The Government said while the UK has one of the highest uptake rates in the world, people from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to take up the vaccine.

A study by the London School of Economics found that people of ethnic minorities were most concerned about the efficacy, safety and side effects of the vaccine.

But they also had much lower levels of trust in scientists, the NHS and the Government, sometimes due to prior discrimination or negative experience.

Those hesistant were most likely to take the jab offer if they were given the choice over their vaccine, the study found, while promotion of jabs through religious leaders was shown to have little use.

But faith leaders are once again supporting the Government in its bid to increase the uptake of booster jabs as Omicron cases surge.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is never too late to get your vaccine, whether it’s your first, second or third. Please come forward and get protected for yourself, your family and your community.”

To book your Covid vaccines, including the booster, head to the NHS website.

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