Road to Damascus conversion for the anti-vaxxer?
July 20, 2021 11:20 PM   Subscribe

My mother is anti-vax, mostly fed by youtube videos. She seems to be in a moment where she might be open to changing her mind (because of the inconvenience and impact on her relationships from being unvaccinated). I'm looking for resources, ideally emotion-driven youtube content, that might help to role model or show a path as to how she could move from her current anti-vax, covid conspiracy stance to vaccine acceptance.

She lives in a European country with a high rate of vaccination, but it is just about to get battered by delta. My mother does not change her mind or admit to error easily but I sense she might be regretting or seeing a downside to being unvaccinated. However she is quite stubborn and admitting she was wrong is not a strong point.

She is heavily influenced by youtube videos and I wonder if there are channels or videos that might model a path to vaccine acceptance for her. I'm thinking , for example, of how some alt-right followers had their minds changed by contrapoints.

Knowing my mother emotion driven rather than science-driven is more likely to be persuasive. Definitely don't want anything that equates being anti-vax with stupidity. I know it's a long shot but just in case, as I sense a certain opening.

(I am fully vaccinated and taking all precautions. This is not a question about how I can persuade her myself or how I should handle the situation. Assume I am covering that. Very specifically looking for content as described above. )
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A recent episode of This American Life was about hurdles to herd immunity, including reluctance to get vaccinated. The second half, “The Elephant in the Zoom,” is about what got a group of Trump supporters to change their minds about vaccination. It’s not a YouTube video, but it is worth your time to consider strategies. Having your mom talk to her personal physician is a major step. If your mother hasn’t talked to her doctor yet, encourage her to do so as soon as she can.
posted by terrierhead at 11:55 PM on July 20 [3 favorites]

In this little news story that's currently going viral, family members of a woman hospitalized for Covid/Delta variant say they've changed their mind about getting vaccinated after watching her suffer in the hospital. This story doesn't go into an ideological conversion narrative but it might be a bit of emotional modeling.
posted by nantucket at 3:21 AM on July 21 [3 favorites]

There's an Oh No Ross and Cary podcast that is unlikely to be the right thing to send her, but might be useful for you in thinking about how to approach this. There's also a followup later with some interesting discussion. Best wishes.

Edit: on re-reading the question, I responded with exactly what you asked us to avoid. Sorry.
posted by eotvos at 4:53 AM on July 21

There's a recent video by hbomberguy about vaccines which focuses on the Wakefield / MMR / autism scandal rather than COVID vaccines. It's pretty scathing about Wakefield himself (justifiably, given the thesis presented in the video), but to the best of my recollection treats people who bought into his scam sympathetically (although perhaps not sympathetically enough for a hostile antivaxx audience).

I found it entertaining, but hbomberguy's style is not everyone's cup of tea, and the video is pretty long and contains some running in-jokes which may be off-putting or at least perplexing. So this may or may not fit your criteria.

I'm recommending it because while it does not directly address COVID vaccines (although it was clearly prompted by the antivaxx response to COVID vaccines) it does dissect in detail how a dishonest actor can misrepresent and falsify data to manipulate public opinion and create controversy and panic over a medical treatment. And arguably it's the same antivaxx movement causing the problem now as before.

(I also recommend it to anyone who, like I was, is only broadly aware of the Wakefield case, because the details are much, much worse than I had previously assumed.)
posted by confluency at 5:51 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]

Have a look at hbomberguy on the origins of anti-vax and see if you think it might do some good.
posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on July 21

posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on July 21

It might help if we understood what OP's mother's anti-vax factors were: Does she not trust medicine? Government? Is she skeptical that Covid is, or was, a serious risk to her?
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:57 AM on July 21 [7 favorites]

Yeah, the way to approach this is not facts or even emotional please but “motivational interviewing” which is an evidence based practice.

Motivational interviewing is used in all sorts of health areas (for example risk reduction and STIs). The basic premise is an actual conversation with a person and hearing what their concerns are (ex I don’t trust this from the government, I’m worried my friends will exclude me because I’ve changed my mind, COVID isn’t real/if I accept a vaccine it makes it real, I hate needles, etc). There’s lots of mirroring/reflective language used, “so what I’m hearing is that you’re worried about how quickly it was developed. I can understand being concerned about something new and later pitfalls. What timeline or approvals would make it acceptable to you?”

I don’t know that a YouTube video will hit these points well unless you really specifically know what your mom wants addressed and YouTube probably won’t replace someone acknowledging her fears
posted by raccoon409 at 6:27 AM on July 21 [9 favorites]

Dr. Bolding of Arkansas, US pleading those who had not been vaccinated to please get vaxxed soon, as he's tired of seeing people suffering or die needlessly from COVID. He does NOT want to call parents or loved ones and tell them X may not survive the bout with COVID, as now COVID is practically ONLY spread among the unvaxxed.
posted by kschang at 6:35 AM on July 21

This local news story with the mother whose child is on a ventilator is pretty affecting.
posted by gudrun at 7:57 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]

This is an article about a US physician who has the heartbreaking extra job of telling non-vaccinated people dying from Covid that it’s too late to give them the vaccine when they finally ask for it.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:17 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
It might help if we understood what OP's mother's anti-vax factors were: Does she not trust medicine? Government? Is she skeptical that Covid is, or was, a serious risk to her?

All of the above. She does not trust medicine, has not been a to a doctor for many years and does not have a personal physician (I suspect she is a little fearful of doctors in addition to the lack of trust). She believes the vaccine will cause some harm to her or is an effort to control her. Doesn't trust government, has been marginalised for most of her life. Believes to varying degrees in lizard people, 5G conspiracies etc. She does not drink tap water because of fears around fluroide as a mind control agent, for example.

She is somewhat inconsistent in her views on covid, thinks it is overblown in an effort to impose controls on population but increasingly seems to recognise that it can be a serious illness. That and the inconvenience of not being vaccinated are what I think might get through to her. Anecdotes about people she knows or marginalised people suffering seem to convince her more.

In general she lives a solitary, off-the-grid type existence and such friends as she has tend to be of a similar mindset.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:17 AM on July 21

There have been a few good stories on about vaccine hesitancy: 1, 2, 3

As for youtube videos, here's a mom talking about getting her 12 year old vaccinated (note: she does talk about God a bit). This channel has a lot of short "Why I got the COVID-19 vaccine" videos and other short informational videos. Here's a short clip of someone who didn't want the vaccine, saw her unvaccinated brother die from COVID, then got the shot herself. Video on how Berlin addressed vaccine hesitancy and what they did about it.
posted by foxjacket at 10:08 AM on July 21 [1 favorite]

Maybe this facebook post?
posted by shadygrove at 10:14 AM on July 21

In the second story of this episode of This American Life, there is a focus group with American vaccine skeptics, with the goal of trying to turn them around. By the end, while they aren't 100% sold, they are way less hesitant. The focus group arranged for a number of people to talk to them - not all were effective.

This is a moment from the transcript that was effective:

David Kestenbaum
Frieden had been listening, and it was like he'd been collecting all the concerns and questions he'd been hearing and lining up responses in his head. And in one minute, he just spit out these five things he wanted everyone to know as clearly as he could.

Tom Frieden
One, if you get infected with the virus, it will go all over your body and stay there for at least a week and be much more likely to cause you long-term problems than the vaccine. Two, if you get the vaccine, it will prime your immune system, but then the vaccine is gone. It will not be with you anymore. Three, more than 95% of the doctors who have been offered this vaccine have gotten it as soon as they can. Four, the more we vaccinate, the faster we can get back to growing our economy and getting jobs. And five, if people get vaccinated, we're going to save at least 100,000 lives of Americans who would otherwise be killed by COVID.

Frank Luntz
OK, I want to show of hands. How many of you would say that those five facts are impactful to you?

Impactful. Yeah.

Frank Luntz
Wow. Wow, that's a lot of you.
posted by coffeecat at 11:04 AM on July 21 [4 favorites]

I wholeheartedly second the Motivational Interviewing suggestion. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube. Your mom is used to holding contradictory information--e.g., the vaccine will make her sick AND the vaccine is a tracking device; COVID is a hoax to control people's behavior AND people are getting really sick with COVID--so you don't need to counter or disprove the false statements she makes, and in fact it might be beneficial to sort of be neutral about them. It might look like this:

Mom: I think the vaccine would make me sick.
You: I definitely felt crappy for a couple days. Would you like to know more about my side effects and how long they lasted? [You're acknowledging a reasonable concern and offering your personal experience without downplaying the concern.]

Mom: What if the vaccine is a tracking device?
You: That's a scary thought for you, isn't it?
Mom: Yeah, I don't want the government to track me.
You: Your independence is really important to you. [You're naming the personal value or emotion that is validated by the conspiracy stuff rather than engaging with the conspiracy.]

Mom: I think COVID is being overblown so they can control us.
You: You're skeptical about who to trust.
Mom: I don't trust the government to tell me the truth.
You: How do you pick who you do trust? [You're inviting her to name criteria that might help you share sources of information with her.]

Mom: Doctors don't care about people like me. They just want to make money off the vaccine.
You: It sounds like you've had experiences with doctors in the past that make it hard to trust them now. [You're not arguing with her perception, just naming the dynamic/bias it creates.]

Maybe you have a few of these interactions and then, based on what comes up, you share resources. But you're demonstrating that you respect her and have empathy, rather than trying to shoot holes in her arguments. (Because conspiracy theories aren't about proving there are lizard people controlling the world or that the vaccine contains a tracking device, they're about validating one's sense of being overlooked, manipulated, disempowered, or otherwise harmed by the power structures they live in. Poking holes in a conspiracy theory will just put the other person on the defensive and they'll find other elements of the conspiracy to dig into. The good news is, your mom doesn't need to abandon every conspiracy theory in order to choose to get vaccinated.)
posted by theotherdurassister at 11:19 AM on July 21 [8 favorites]

"Anecdotes about people she knows or marginalised people suffering seem to convince her more."
Testimonials from TV personalities, artists etc, she admires and trusts?
lots of them are posting videos encouraging people to get vaccinated.
for example, if she was into country music: Willie Nelson on getting vaccinated so we can all enjoy live music safely again.
posted by bluedora at 12:15 PM on July 21

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