Nursing & Healthcare News

Nurses Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy

Answering questions, debunking propaganda, educating doctors

Antivaxx sentiment poses a growing threat to public health. A group in New York City believes that nurses may hold the answer. Antivaxx sentiment poses a growing threat to public health. A group in New York City believes that nurses may hold the answer.

Vaccine Task Force

New York City has been a hotbed of recent measles outbreaks, due in part to vaccine hesitancy within the city’s Orthodox Jewish communities. Months ago, members of the Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association decided to take action, establishing a volunteer Vaccine Task Force to combat misinformation about vaccination.

Neighborhood Meetings

The Vaccine Task Force first compiled a pamphlet called “A Slice of PIE (Parents Informed and Educated),” which offered a point-by-point rebuttal of an anti-vaxx publication circulated in local Orthodox neighborhoods last fall.

Nursing Education

However, task force member Blima Marcus, RN, DNP, ANP-BC, OCN, a nurse practitioner at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, says the group has found it more effective to address parents directly in face-to-face neighborhood meetings that allow for questions and discussion.

Some local pediatricians have begun attending these events to learn more about recent anti-vaxx propaganda. Anti-vaccine arguments can be a moving target, sometimes putting providers in the awkward position of trying to refute a claim they’ve never heard before. Nurse-led educational sessions like these give physicians an opportunity to arm themselves with appropriate responses and talking points.

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Listening With Respect

Although her group’s current efforts focus on Orthodox Jewish communities, Marcus doesn’t see this as a religious issue. “I think that being a member of the community is helpful,” she recently told MPR, “but the most helpful part is that I’m a nurse.”

She says what’s most important is to engage in a nonjudgmental dialogue that respects parental concerns; offers clear, evidence-based responses; and helps caregivers separate facts from myths, scams and half-truths.

“I listen carefully, answer questions and use actual science to try to dispel conspiracy theories and paranoia about financial gain by doctors, the CDC and others involved in the vaccination process,” Marcus explains.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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