A study came out in Pediatrics today that evaluated different ways to convince parents to vaccinate their kids (SciAm write up for those without access). A cohort of parents were surveyed for their beliefs regarding vaccines and health. Afterwards, they were subject to one of four intervention methods:
1) Debunking the myth that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
2) Presenting the disease risks associated with the MMR vaccine.
3) A mother's account of when her son was hospitalized with measles.
4) Pictures of children with diseases the vaccines are meant to prevent.
Sadly, for parents least trusting of vaccines, none of the above increased their likelihood of vaccinating their children. In fact, while intervention #1 caused parents to no longer agree vaccines cause autism (8.9% to 5.1%), they were also less likely to vaccinate their kids (70% to 45%). So even though parents now realized that vaccines don't cause autism, they become even more stubborn about not giving their kids vaccines.
And it's not even just about facts. Even when faced with emotional appeals (interventions #3 and #4) did not increase any favorable attitudes towards vaccines. In fact, the story of the kid with measles actually increased parents beliefs that vaccines have side effects.
So if facts and emotional arguments don't work...what will?