Great post! You have begun by explaining why the issue of vaccination is a significant concern in modern practice, and I greatly agree with you. Often, patients are concerned about the safety and side effects, which makes some shun away from vaccination. The issue can be explained by the rise of rebellion, especially in the case of the COVID-19 vaccination, where individuals like Jenny McCarthy have been spreading misinformation about the vaccination process. The CDC is responsible for evaluating the safety and efficiency of a vaccine before it can be launched for use in humans (Meissner et al., 2018).
Nurses are responsible for educating patients about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines through evidence-based research and statistics. They first evaluate the patient’s perceptions and knowledge about the vaccine, enabling them to offer valid and appropriate guidelines and information to help patients understand the vaccination process. They should explain the safety and effectiveness of vaccination in simple terms and refer the patients whenever possible for further guidelines and education. Nurses elicit patient information by asking questions to understand their concerns and needs, enabling them to offer appropriate help.
Meissner, H. C., Farizo, K., Pratt, D., Pickering, L. K., & Cohn, A. C. (2018). Understanding FDA-approved labeling and CDC recommendations for the use of vaccines. Pediatrics, 142(3).
Great post! I agree with you that the issue of vaccination seems controversial because of the varying perceptions and articulated benefits and risks individuals have towards immunization. Antivaccination debates are on the rise in modern practice, with several pioneers being members of healthcare professionals (Maltezou et al., 2019). Your experience must be overwhelming since you have had personal contact with a physician opposing vaccination. It also saddens me to hear that even one of our members opposes vaccination. The opponents seem very ignorant of the benefits of vaccination and are unwilling to engage in any meaningful debate that may enlighten them about the vaccination issue.
The opponents to vaccination argue that the health issue is a personal decision. Thus, they cannot be convinced to support vaccination since they don’t seem to trust the data and evidence provided by stakeholders. Experiences with some opponents of vaccination in practice have been fruitful, especially for those willing to engage in conversations about the debate. After providing information about the issue, some have agreed to get vaccinated. It is an achievement, however insignificant it may seem, and I encourage you to be motivated. Your sentiments about creating trust and mutual respect for patients and providing scientific facts and straightforward vaccine explanations have been insightful. I propose to explore the same in practice.
Maltezou, H. C., Theodoridou, K., Ledda, C., Rapisarda, V., & Theodoridou, M. (2019). Vaccination of healthcare workers: is mandatory vaccination needed? Expert review of vaccines, 18(1), 5-13.
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Vaccine safety is a hot-button issue in society currently. Through the spread of misinformation from sources like celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and deleterious studies by unscrupulous physicians, vaccine safety is now debated. Diseases that were almost eradicated have made comebacks that would have been impossible if not for the antivaccination platform. According to the CDC, American vaccines are the safest they have ever been (CDC,2021). The CDC and several other agencies study the safety and effectiveness of each vaccine and create reports available to the public. When approached by patients with inquiries regarding safety, the nurse practitioner is responsible for due diligence and providing the patient with solid evidence-based information. First, assessing their baseline knowledge of how vaccination creates immunity and known side effects should be determined to provide meaningful information. From there, an appropriate level of vaccine information should be provided in layperson’s terms that your patient can understand well enough that they have questions. Ask your patients what questions they have and try to responsibly answer each question or refer them to a valid peer-reviewed source where they can find the information. I often explain the symptoms and prognosis of disease processes and long-term side effects of the disease and compare them to that of the vaccine. For example, with the COVID vaccine. If you take the vaccine, you are most likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms and feel ill for 24-48 hours. Without vaccination, if you contract the disease, the immediate, long-term effects and death are the risks to be aware of. This cost versus benefit analysis often tends to be very effective in educating people about the necessity for vaccination. When the safety of their person or their children is concerned, we are responsible for presenting the information with as little bias as possible and allowing them to make the best autonomous decision for themselves and their families.
Suffice it to say that the topic of vaccines and any statement of their perceived benefits and risks draws nothing but controversy. In the US, the subject has taken a political slant along specific party lines, the like of which has never been seen in history. The Antivaccination (or anti-vaxxer) movement has always existed in the country for at least as long as I have been in the healthcare industry. Still, the followers always appeared to be expressing fringe opinions. Interestingly, my first ever personal anti-vaxxer encounter was with a physician – he wasn’t a practicing physician but had completed his physician education, including residency. Fast forward several years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the movement has become significantly more robust. The movement is strong, and its followers seem entirely closed from public discourse, logical conversation, or compromise. Personally, to me, it is just a sad situation.
From what I can gather through coverage of the issue via news media and publications put out by science-based institutions, there exists a small collection of arguments (scientific community) and counterarguments (anti-vaxxer community) that are being debated in an “echo chamber.” One side says the data supports that vaccination works – the other side says we don’t believe your data. One side says vaccinations support better public health – the other side says my health is my issue alone, and no one gets to say anything about that. One side says COVID-19 deaths are much higher for the unvaccinated – the other side says no, thank you, we are invincible (Wilson, 2021). And on and on it goes. By the way, this is just a sampling of the debate points.
During my nursing practice, I have encountered many opinionated anti-vaxxers and those who like to be on the sidelines and refuse offers for any vaccine – be it influenza, pneumonia, or COVID-19. A small proportion of such patients are open to dialog and change their minds when more information is provided. But the vast majority will continue to refuse vaccines no matter what. In my early career, I used to take my inability to convince someone to get vaccinated as a personal defeat. Over the years, I learned not to do that. These days, I focus on building a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with patients by putting myself in the patient’s shoes, being upfront with scientific facts, providing meaningful/straightforward explanations of what the vaccine does, how it works, its safety aspects, and then hope for the best. This approach is consistent with author Hausman’s (2019) thoughts about doing more to understand patient positions without vilification and judgment.
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