How to convince my anti-vaccine neighbor that vaccines are actually beneficial

You might not be able to convince them. But there are some things to keep in mind, which may help. In order to lead a civil and respectful debate, understanding the opposing point of view really does make a difference. Asking and listening, and being a friendly example of a different view, in itself may be beneficial factors in making your neighbour view things in a different light.

Studies have found that the views of friends and family are even more predictive of a person's vaccination decision than their *own views* on the topic. I wrote about some of my main insights about talking about vaccines in Injecting Kindness into the Debate.

"What is it, most of all, that influences people's decision on vaccines? It's not evidence – not at first hand and not for most of us. It's friends and family. From: The Impact of Social Networks on Parents' Vaccination Decisions"

More about the use of a kind approach, listening and trying to understand, from my piece:

"Right at that time when I was struggling with how to talk about vaccines, I could not have been happier to have stumbled on this simple piece of advice.

It seems that every time an anti-vaxxer has the courage to comment on a scientific thread, blog, video, etc. the internet is quick to fire. There is name calling, shaming, and even threats of death. [...]

We're scientists after all, and scientists trust the data. The data say that in order to effectively teach these people we should be probing their understanding. Ask them why they believe vaccines cause autism. Ask them to explain the biochemical mechanisms that cause the toxicity of preservatives. Ask them to describe how a well controlled clinical trial is conducted. When they flounder point them in the right direction.

They described the method better know as The Socratic Method. Really, I was hitting my head against the wall when a better answer had been found in the ancient Greece? It gave me pause to realise that this was pretty much what Mrs Nice Mom had been doing. The one who had always managed to express her support for vaccines while still remaining liked and respected by everyone.

I decided to put it to test. I used friendly curiosity, probing for the underlying understanding of my audience. I asked them how they determined who or what to listen to as a source of information, and if they could teach me how I could know what they have come to know. How did it work? Where should I turn to to find out? What should I do if two sources contradicted each other?

The next couple of discussions were strikingly different (this one was on vaccines and eczema):

"dear Ilda [sic], I wouldn't know of those myself. toxins hang around the body, don't they and the skin condition is a red flag for the imbalance they cause inside..."

There was no debate. Maybe they were simply not interested to continue. Maybe we just avoided an argument. I could hope they would think more about the topics on their own, but I honestly don't know.

But the effect on me was tremendous. I was calm. I was polite, curious, friendly and happy. I became sincerely interested in how they had gotten to the conclusions they'd made. I reflected upon how difficult it could be to actually find something out, and felt a cooperative sense of puzzlement in wondering with them how you could know more about ‘toxins', what they would be, and what their effects on the body would be.

Not shooting someone down with counter-arguments was awesome. I had helped keep the atmosphere friendly while the incredible claims had dwindled and dried up, hopefully demonstrating to other readers what a feeble ground they stood on."

If you do get to a point when you would like to answer specific concerns, there are many good resources of vaccine info. I've done my best to collect them and write about them here: Vaccines and Health


Perhaps you shouldn't, because maybe they are not all beneficial. Each one should be evaluated on the basis of the evidence available. Sadly there is little independent, objective, statistically significant evidence for some vaccines (eg pandemic flu).

However I expect most vaccines are beneficial - but it's unlikely that you'll convince your neighbour if he thinks they are evil. (evil sounds like a religious concept not amenable to logic or evidence)


Either through questioning all of his arguments while presenting him your point of view or not at all. To be anti-vaccine one has to be so ignorant that everything that is mentioned which weakens their worldview is seen as attack and threat.


You can't. You cannot show him unbiased (or not paid for by the people who profit) proof that vaccines are not toxic to children. No one has that proof.

(Please don't reply hateful or "Yes they do" comments, especially if you have not personally read the research. Please be kind.)


Don't argue with his point of view. Point out how dangerous the actual diseases are. Measles causes nerve damage, Helen Keller was a normal toddler until she got sick and some feel she had measles. If people stop vaccinating these diseases will come back.

Ultimately you will likely not change his mind. You will have to keep your children away from him.


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