NEWS January 27, 2023

Dr. Sandy Chung’s Message to AAP Members Regarding Immunizations


Please read below for PHN Medical Director Dr. Sandy Chung’s message to AAP members regarding immunizations in pediatrics practices.

Please read below for PHN Medical Director Dr. Sandy Chung’s message to AAP members regarding immunizations in pediatrics practices.

Dear AAP Members:

As the CDC reported this month, we’ve seen a decrease in immunization rates among young children in the past three years. This likely has several causes, including barriers to access that were exacerbated during the pandemic, the spread of mis- and disinformation, and our collective, ongoing challenge to build confidence in immunizations.

We know you face this challenge every day in your practices. I have certainly seen this at my own practice. At the AAP, we have been working on multiple projects to improve immunization rates at a national level. This includes new communications research the AAP commissioned with the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank that uses rigorous social science methods to unveil the foundational mindsets and assumptions people hold on numerous issues, and empirically based guidance on how to talk about them outside the exam room setting. I am delighted to announce that this work is now available.

This new research has yielded evidence-based strategies we can use to build public understanding of and support for vaccine access for everyone. Whether we are sharing information about vaccines in social media or in a news interview, talking with policymakers or addressing a group of parents, these framing strategies can help improve how we talk about vaccines. These conversations in the “public square” – whether that’s in virtual or in-person spaces – ultimately will help us shape public attitudes about vaccines and their benefits.

Some of you heard a preview of this research at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in October during a plenary address by Julie Sweetland, PhD, a sociolinguist and Senior Advisor at FrameWorks. The full report is now available here, and I encourage you to explore it in detail.

Meanwhile, here are a few strategies FrameWorks and AAP recommend when talking about vaccines in these public conversations:

  • Talk about the benefits of vaccination for the common good.
  • Talk about improving vaccination access as a preventative public health measure.
  • Focus on how vaccines are beneficial to children’s long-term health and wellbeing.
  • Use a computer updates metaphor to explain how the immune system improves its performance through vaccination.
  • Use a literacy metaphor to explain how the immune system learns how to respond to viruses through vaccination.

For more on these recommendations, and examples of messages, check out the report. FrameWorks and AAP will be releasing more tools and communications assets in the coming months.

I’ll also note that a large body of research exists to inform the communications strategies you use when talking about vaccines with parents one-on-one in your practice, including making a strong recommendation and using motivational interviewing techniques. Those are effective and important in the clinical setting. This additional research shows that slightly different framing strategies will be effective when we are addressing large audiences, and will help us shift public thinking more broadly and build support for policies that will increase access to vaccination for all children and adolescents.

Thank you for all that you do for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults in your communities.

Warm regards,

Sandy Chung, MD, FAAP