Spooking Parents

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Our national broadcaster is today running an opinion piece by Dr. Sabrina Jeanty and lawyer Jason Chung advising the Canadian government to head off the fear-mongering of the anti-vaccine movement with fear-mongering of its own. “A wall of text spouting dry facts” is not equal to the gravity of the public-health crisis facing Canadians, they claim, and neither are the “clichéd” pictures of smiling parents, children and doctors that currently populate government websites. “The Canadian government should get serious and modify its vaccination campaign,” Jeanty and Chung conclude, “even if it means scaring parents into visiting their family doctor or pediatrician to learn more about the real dangers of failing to vaccinate.”

Fighting irrational hysteria with more irrational hysteria is patently a terrible idea in a secular liberal democracy like Canada, not to mention a profoundly condescending one. We hardly need parents’ already considerable anxiety about threats to their kids stoked by fear-mongering public-health officials (or by CBC News, for that matter).

Here’s a better approach. Give Canadian parents the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are rational, responsible and open to persuasion. Encourage them to talk to their pediatricians. Continue to educate them. And do not for a moment relent in the spouting of dry facts.

If the ultimate objective of vaccination-awareness campaigns, per Jeanty and Chung, is to thwart the transmission of virulent diseases while torpedoing “pseudo-science,” give Canadians the real thing.