Letters and phone calls can be very effective, but nothing shows your commitment quite like a face-to-face meeting at your legislator’s office. During the busy legislative season, you may not be able to schedule a meeting with your elected official, but an meeting with the aide in charge of public health is just as important.
REQUEST A MEETING
Begin with a written request and then place a follow up call with the appointment scheduler.
Tell the scheduler what you will be discussing, and inform them that you are a constituent. Legislators are very busy during the legislative session, so try and focus on existing bills during that time. Once the session adjourns, it is is good time to sit down and have more general educational conversations that can help make on-time vaccination a future priority.
The meeting will probably last about 15 – 30 minutes. If your schedule is tight, propose several times and dates.
Thoroughly research your position and prepare up to 3 talking points.
If you are a medical expert or public health professional, look for ways to relate your expertise to a local issue – for example, has there been a reemergence of vaccine preventable disease, or an increase in non-medical exemptions? If you are speaking as a parent, focus on your personal story about why on-time vaccination is important to you and read some reliable resources about vaccines to support your position.
Try and determine your legislator’s position on vaccination. Research their voting history on other public health issues, and use this information to craft your talking points.
If there is a bill under consideration, look into what the anti-vaccine movement is saying in articles, websites, and hearing testimony. Often times, there will be a few common themes in the points they make, most of which are inaccurate. If you know what argument they are making, you can be sure to explain what scientific consensus supports.
AT THE MEETING
When you explain your position, make your story personal – tell them exactly why protecting people from vaccine preventable disease is important to you.
Bring any print-outs that support your position.
AFTER YOUR MEETING
Send a thank-you note as soon as possible. In your note, detail the issue that you spoke about and say that you look forward to seeing your legislator take action. If you promised any additional information in the meeting, send it at this time.
Now that you have built this relationship, keep in contact by phone or email as new information becomes available and as any issues arise.