My experience as a UK citizen navigating the US healthcare system, by healthcare director Ben Gibbons
Recently, I moved from London to New York with my wife and 3-year old daughter. Before starting pre-kindergarten, my daughter was required to consult with a paediatrician. Asked if our daughter had been vaccinated against TB, my wife showed her Personal Child Health Record as proof. However, this, along with a visible BCG scar on our daughter’s arm, was not considered proof enough and the physician insisted on testing my daughter for the relevant antibodies.
My wife and I are both very pro vaccines but still were not given any choice in the matter. This made me think about the anti-vaccine movement: to a large extent, I thought this had been put to bed long ago (typically in surveys we see around 9% of UK consumers being against vaccines) but wondered whether this could still be a factor in the US, leading to our doctor’s no-nonsense approach.
The anti-vax movement has been very vocal for a while and is often backed by celebrities citing all manner of justifications for their support:
· Some feel vaccination laws infringe their personal freedom of choice
· Some still believe vaccinations to be a risky practice causing disorders such as autism, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary
· Others subscribe to an overall natural health / wellness philosophy, which is seemingly at odds with protection against infectious diseases via vaccination.
All these attitudes, and the influence of misinformed spokespeople, may go some way towards explaining our New York doctor’s strong stance in making sure necessary vaccinations take place.
Essentially, very few people outright reject vaccines. In a recent Bryter study in the US and EU, fewer than 1 in 10 claimed they would definitely NOT seek vaccination for various diseases including chickenpox (7% definitely would not), norovirus (7%), rotavirus (6%), shingles (6%), and pneumonia (6%). Most people fell within the mid-to-positive end of the scale. Sure, they may be positively predisposed towards vaccinations in most cases, but they may lack that personal factor that will make this a priority for them.
It is clear that there is a need to keep up the good work and pressure to have people vaccinated. This can take the form of providing information regarding the process, its benefits and importance, but also in more practical terms: this was summed up to me by a UK immunization manager as simply providing the ‘best vaccine experience possible’. Thinking of my wife’s recent experience, the physician was simply getting the job done, but more tact and understanding (our daughter had already received three jabs that day) could have made for a more positive experience.
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