May the Vaccines Be With You!

By Rebecca Kreston | January 15, 2013 7:44 pm

What is the best way to persuade parents to get their kids vaccinated against preventable diseases? Tug sentimentally at the heartstrings? Appeal to common sense and logic? Shame and blame?

Or how about going the pop culture route and using characters from one of the most popular movies in history as the CDC and the Department of Health, Education, & Welfare did in April 1978?

The poster for the clever Star Wars Public Service Announcement featuring C-3PO and R2-D2 from the CDC and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare encouraging parents to vaccinate their children against preventable infections.

The poster on the right and the short commercial below feature the characters C-3PO and R2-D2 speaking directly to the “parents of Earth” on the necessity of vaccinating their children fully against polio, measles and whooping cough and the dangers of not doing so. As C-3PO admonishes a coughing R2-DC, “Droids don’t get diseases like whooping cough, or measles, or polio. But children do. All you need is a little rewiring but children need to be fully immunized but, alas, so many are not.”

I think it’s a particularly inspired moment in public health propaganda. If you’re going to convince wary parents to get their children vaccinated, why not use the Force?


See more public health posters from the National Library of Medicine’s exhibition, “To Your Health: An Exhibition of Posters for Contemporary Public Health Issues.”

Washington state is the midst of a whooping cough epidemic – there were 4,815 cases of the disease last year – and certain types of vaccines may be to blame for a drop in efficiency and protection over time. Maryn McKenna goes into greater detail here.

The White House just quashed a petition for the country to “secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.” Paul Shawcross, the Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget, has a very inspiring and feel-good letter about why the Death Star will not be built but that the USA is on the right track for space exploration irregardless.


Wookieepdia: The Star Wars Wiki. (Unknown date of publishing) “Star Wars Immunization PSA.” Accessed January 15, 2013 here.

Boyle, Eric (September 23, 2003) “Infectious Disease: Immunization.” From the  Visual Culture & Public Health Posters Exhibit. National Institutes of Health [Online.] Accessed January 15, 2013 here.

  • Debora

    Sadly, many otherwise intelligent and educated young parents are not having their children vaccinated because of unfounded and unproven fears generated by a few wing nuts with blogs. Alas, there is no reasoning with them. I fear that some will lose their children to diseases they themselves never had to worry about contracting. You’ve heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Well there is a Fifth Horseman – willful ignorance, and he is the most dangerous of all.

  • Debora

    There should not be a smiley face on the above comment!

  • bodyhorrors

    I kind of like the smiley face, Debora! I agree, the Fifth Horseman is willful ignorance and cultured delusion. :)

  • M

    This may very well be the coolest video I have ever seen!

  • Amorette Allison

    In Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” the Ghost of Christmas Present warns Scrooge about the evils of want and ignorance, especially ignorance. Been a problem for a long time.

    • claireyoung77

      Been a problem for a long time, and probably won’t be going away any time soon either. It never ceases to amaze me that even when presented by logic…fact…concrete evidence…some people will still choose ignorance!

  • beckyworldwide

    :::These are not the ignorant parents you’re looking for:::

    The ignorance shown by some of the parents who refuse to have their kids immunized is just painful – I found myself reading a blog entry from one such mother a few weeks ago. Sad to see!

  • Franny

    Understandably, vaccines as helpful prevention to diseases are as much fantasy as the star wars series. I’d say that maybe it was cool back in the 70’s, but I’m sure something like this would get ridiculed in modern day. However, I think that regardless, people are more aware these days to their health needs (especially after all the news of Obamacare), and I’d hope that more and more parents now are realizing the fundamental truths and benefits of vaccination.


Body Horrors

Body Horrors looks at the history, anthropology and geography of infectious diseases and parasites.

About Rebecca Kreston

Rebecca Kreston is an infectious disease scholar trained in microbiology and epidemiology. She obtained her Biology degree from Reed College and her Masters of Science in Tropical Medicine from Tulane University. She's lived in tropical jungles, beaches and deserts around the world and has been exposed to several of the diseases that she studies. She currently lives in New Orleans, is a fourth year medical student and regularly battles insects of the Diptera, Siphonaptera and Hymenoptera orders.

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