Promoting Vaccines Across the Generations

By Janelle Germanos, Communications Manager at the Alliance for Aging Research

Grandparents Day is observed each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Each year, Generations United—a national membership organization focused solely on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies—asks people to #DoSomethingGrand to mark the day. Recognizing the important role that grandparents play in promoting health in their families and communities, the Alliance for Aging Research held a webinar on September 13, “The Truth About Vaccines: How to Stop Disinformation and Promote Vaccination Across the Generations.” The webinar was hosted with Generations United, just a day after Grandparents Day on September 12.

Some of my most cherished memories are with my grandparents, going to the movies or just spending time at their home, playing games, and generally having the time of my life. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have known and had strong relationships with their grandparents, and I consider myself very lucky to have had them in my life for almost 25 years.

For many families, including mine, grandparents are often the leaders. They are turned to for their advice and wisdom because they have the most life experience. I know that before my grandparents passed away, I constantly went to them for their insight. And let’s be honest—grandparents can also be very straightforward and to the point. Grandparents tell it like it is.

This puts grandparents, and older adults in general, in a great position to be the truth-tellers in their families and communities, especially when it comes to vaccines.

Older people are often in unique positions of influence to prevent the spread of false information and encourage vaccination in their communities. Lindsay Clarke, Alliance Vice President of Health Education and Advocacy, kicked off our September 12 webinar with information about new Alliance resources, which were created to empower older adults with the facts about vaccines and the information they need to combat the misinformation and disinformation that fills our social media feeds, so they can share the facts with their friends and families.

The first new resource is a fact sheet titled “The Truth About Vaccines” that debunks commonly shared misinformation and disinformation about vaccines in general, and COVID-19 vaccines in particular, and shares tips on cutting through the misinformation and disinformation to find the facts. Many older adults are some of the biggest proponents for vaccines because they faced terrifying diseases like polio, which no longer exists in the U.S. thanks to vaccines.

The second resource is a new educational video, “Our Best Shot: Preventing and Treating the Flu,” that gives an overview of influenza and highlights the importance of the annual flu vaccine for everyone, especially older adults who are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications and even death.

Lindsay was followed by Donna Butts, Executive Director of Generations United, an organization with a mission to “improve the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs.”

Donna spoke about Valuing Vaccinations Across the Generations, a campaign led by Generations United in partnership with The Gerontological Society of America and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Donna also spoke about a new report Generations United released on trends in multi-generational households and the organization’s Grandparents Day campaign.

“What we’re trying to do with Grandparents Day is really make it a time to do something grand with or on behalf of another generation, and I can’t think of anything more important than vaccinations, and what that means in particular today,” Donna said.

Donna was followed by Dr. Todd Wolynn, President of Kids Plus Pediatrics and the Co-Founder of Shots Heard Round the World. Dr. Wolynn talked about how Kids Plus Pediatrics is using communication to fight against vaccine misinformation and disinformation.

“Everyone of us has a role to play when it comes to communication,” Dr. Wolynn said. “Sadly, communication can be twisted and used for nefarious means.”

Dr. Wolynn talked about how it’s important to check that the information we share on social media is accurate and true. “If you’re not certain the information is accurate then you may be actually unintentionally helping propagate disinformation or at least misinformation,” Dr. Wolynn said.

Dr. Wolynn also talked about the importance of getting a flu shot, and that October is the ideal time to do so.

The Webinar is a great resource and we at the Alliance are so thankful for the opportunity to partner with Donna and Dr. Wolynn to empower grandparents to be the vaccine truth-tellers in their families.

Even if you aren’t a grandparent, we encourage everyone to learn how to be a vaccine truth-teller by watching the webinar here.