Pro-Vaccine is Being Green

Sustainability is not just limited to the environmental realm. In fact, one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 is to “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Though promoting a healthy population is a relatively uncontroversial aspiration, the mechanisms through which to do so is laden with controversy. After an outbreak of Measles at the Disneyland Theme Park in California in 2014, the disease reached its highest infection rate since 2000, with over disease 600 cases reported. Since then, the debate about vaccinations and their necessity has resurfaced in political discourse. In spite of vaccinations being scientifically proven to have a 90% effectiveness rate, the contemporary Measles outbreak has given “Anti-Vaxxers” a new leg to stand on. However, recent research shows that while changing obstinate minds against vaccinations is difficult, changing the undecided minds is possible if those minds are given facts and incentives. Because vaccines are only effective in containing infectious disease through “herd” immunization, converting those on the fence is especially important. U.S. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren says, “Vaccines are our best chance of protecting our children from diseases that can kill them.” If this is true, then how can we motivate moderates to abide by public health standards and get vaccinated?

  1. Pro-vaccine messaging:
    1. Enlisting, educating, and training a community member to be a pro vaccine leader is often effective, as often communities of “Anti-vaxxers” are close knit and grouped together.
    2. Host local campaigns in favor of vaccination.
    3. Note: This tactic should not be overused as in some cases, over exposure to pro-vaccine messaging is shown to turn off those who are undecided and strengthen the opinions of those who are against it.
  2. Tax credits for patients, small reward for doctors:
    1. Australia provides financial incentives for vaccinations. Their measles vaccination rate for babies under 1 year of age is 94%. The approach includes rewards compensation for both doctors and patients – doctors for their promotion of public health and patients for their compliance in public health.
    2. Note: a criticism of this is approach is that the payment to doctors skews their medical objectivity as they are technically financial motivated to vaccinate.
  3. Make it more difficult to opt out:
    1. Those who strongly oppose getting a vaccine for personal or moral reasons will trudge through a longer process while those who are more undecided will not.
  4. Preschedule appointments:
    1. People are more likely to get their seasonal flu vaccine if appointments were already scheduled according to Rutgers University psychology professor Gretchen Chapman. 
  5. Use deliberate phrasing to offer Vaccinations:
    1. According to Douglas Opel, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington, 18 times more people would vaccinate their children when the vaccination was framed as a natural part of a doctor visit/checkup as opposed to something optional or supplemental.
  6. Countering misinformation with fact:
    1. Many of the websites and tactics of those opposing vaccinations are based in rhetoric and falsified studies, rather than fact. Arming people with statistics and data could help provide rebuttals to these assumptions.

These methods may help increase the number of people being vaccinated, thus generating a healthy, more sustainable world.

Written by Julie Elliot, Class of 2015

Photo by

Title Nurse Administers a Vaccine
Description A nurse wearing blue gloves administers a vaccine into a male patient’s arm.
Source National Cancer Institute (NCI)21 September 2009


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