Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Change the Name!

There's something unintimidating about watching your child receive the rotovirus vaccine. It's a drop in the mouth, something that, while not exactly palatable, doesn't prick. I'm sure from a child's point-of-view, this is a preferable way to receive an immunization. I've often told my friends that all immunizations should be administered this way. It seems to be human nature to react to a large needle dripping with medicine with suspicion, especially if that needle is heading for our baby's tender thigh. The truth, of course, is that we should be eagerly awaiting this immunization so we can sit back and relax for the first time since the baby was born and feel somewhat sure he or she is at least minimally protected from pretty awful diseases. And many of us parents do feel that way, but I think it takes some practice. As humans we are very susceptible to the way things are presented to us. In George Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant, the concept of "framing" information played on this human tendency. I think it might be time for those of us who vaccinate to consider re-framing the "vaccine" question by taking a small but potentially powerful step. It's time to stop letting anti-vax activists dictate the debate. Here is one way to do it.

Stop using the word vaccine.

Some, like me and a couple other of the Moms Who Vax, consider the word almost ruined. The word immunization, on the other hand, feels unassaulted and it doesn't raise the blood temperature in the same way vaccine seems to do. Yes, we call ourselves Moms Who Vax--but Moms Who Immunize just didn't have the same ring to it. But choosing the words we use to talk about this issue can have an effect. It's a small idea, perhaps too small, but I believe that instead of trying to reclaim the term "vaccine" we should plant our flag on "immunization." So, with a few exceptions, you will see vaccines referred to as immunizations on this blog, and if you are a parent who immunizes, I ask that you consider referring to vaccines the same way. And if you're interested in learning more about Lakoff's theories on framing, please check out this article on his ideas.

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