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Storytelling in the context of vaccine refusal: a strategy to improve communication and immunisation
  1. Philip B Cawkwell,
  2. David Oshinsky
  1. Division of Medical Humanities, Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Philip B Cawkwell, New York University School of Medicine, 550 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA; Philip.Cawkwell{at}


The December 2014 outbreak of measles in California impacted over 100 children and served as a reminder that this disease still plagues the USA, even 50 years following the first licensed vaccine. Refusal of vaccination is a complicated and multifaceted issue, one that clearly demands a closer look by paediatricians and public health officials alike. While medical doctors and scientists are trained to practice ‘evidence-based medicine’, and studies of vaccine safety and efficacy speak the language of statistics, there is reason to believe that this is not the most effective strategy for communicating with all groups of parents. Herein, we consider other methods such as narrative practices that employ stories and appeal more directly to parents. We also examine how doctors are trained to disseminate information and whether there are reasonable supplementary methods that could be used to improve vaccine communication and ultimately immunisation rates.

  • Child health
  • Public health

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