Vaccine hesitant parents sometimes don’t get time to talk with a pediatrician about vaccines.
They might not even get an appointment with their new baby if they express doubts about wanting to vaccinate their kids or about wanting to skip or delay some vaccines.
That’s unfortunate, as I think many would choose to vaccinate and protect their kids if they got answers to the anti-vaccine talking points that scare them.
Myth busting by itself doesn’t always seem to work though.
How Pediatricians Should Talk to Vaccine Hesitant Parents
It is understandable that pediatricians get frustrated talking to some anti-vaccine parents.
One strategy that might work includes asking open ended questions about why the parent is hesitant to vaccinate their kids. Next, while responding to a few of their biggest concerns, be sure to affirm what the parent is saying and use reflective listening.
How might these vaccination-focused motivational interviewing techniques work during a typical visit at a pediatrician’s office? Instead of getting frustrated and accepting a copy of Dr. Bob’s alternative schedule, you might ask them:
- What specifically are you afraid of?
- You are really worried that your child might get sick after their vaccines.
- It sounds like you think kids get too many shots.
Now, address a few of those concerns.
Pediatricians often feel like they don’t have enough time to have long discussions about vaccines, when they also need to talk about many other important topics at each visit, including nutrition, development, and safety, etc. The vaccine talk doesn’t have to be extensive though. Just get it started and come back to it again at the next visit.
Talking About Vaccines
It is not enough to simply tell your vaccine hesitant parents to read a book, visit a website, or offer them some handouts though. It is important that pediatricians also talk to parents about vaccines.
Study after study show that pediatricians are the most influential, most convincing, and most used source of information about vaccines for many parents.
“How providers initiate and pursue vaccine recommendations is associated with parental vaccine acceptance.”
Opel et al on The Architecture of Provider-Parent Vaccine Discussions at Health Supervision Visits
Just remember, when you have these talks, to:
- Use vaccination-focused motivational interviewing techniques for vaccine-hesitant parents.
- Avoid using scientific and medical jargon.
- Help parents who may have a skewed perception of the risks of vaccines vs risks of vaccine preventable diseases, by emphasizing that vaccines are very safe.
- Avoid simply minimizing or dismissing a parent’s concerns about vaccines without providing a fact based explanation for why they shouldn’t be worried.
- Highlight the benefits of vaccines, including all of the social benefits.
- Avoid a “data dump,” in which you might overwhelm a vaccine hesitant parent with too much information all at once and in what they might see as a lecture about accepting vaccines.
- Always use presumptive language and high-quality recommendations when you talk about vaccines.
- Include stories and anecdotes about kids who have gotten sick and parents who regret not vaccinating their kids.
- Become familiar with the anti-vaccine talking points that may be scaring your patients away from getting vaccinated on time. Why is this important? If they are concerned about glyphosate, you might not sound too convincing telling them not to worry if you don’t even know what glyphosate is.
- Try the CASE Method for talking about vaccine concerns.
Are your kids fully vaccinated? Talk about that too.
There is much more to all of this than simply letting parents follow non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules and arguing with them about getting caught up.
What to Know About Talking to Vaccine Hesitant Parents
Learning new ways to talk to vaccine hesitant parents, including the use of vaccination-focused motivational interviewing techniques, presumptive language, and high-quality recommendations, might help pediatricians have more success and get less frustrated.
More About Talking to Vaccine Hesitant Parents
- Introduction to Vaccination-Focused Motivational Interviewing
- AAP – Vaccine Hesitant Parents
- CDC – Provider Resources for Vaccine Conversations with Parents
- AAP – Physician Communication With Vaccine-Hesitant Parents: The Start, Not the End, of the Story
- AAP – The Architecture of Provider-Parent Vaccine Discussions at Health Supervision Visits
- AAP – Responding to Parental Refusals of Immunization of Children
- How to Motivate Patients to Immunize
- Motivational Techniques and Skills for Health and Mental Health Coaching/Counseling
- Challenging Cases: Vaccine Hesitancy
- Working with vaccine-hesitant parents
- Providers Are Most Persuasive On Vaccinations When Speaking with Confidence and Conviction
- Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy and Resistance
- Making the CASE for Vaccines: Communicating about Vaccine Safety
- Communicating Effectively About Vaccines
- How to respond to vocal vaccine deniers in public
- A positive approach to parents with concerns about vaccination for the family physician
- Vaccine Communication With Parents: Best Practices
- How to Respond to Inaccurate Posts about Vaccines on Social Media
- Dealing with vaccine hesitancy and refusal
- How should we deal with vaccine hesitancy, refusal, and antivaccine beliefs
- Learning the Hard Way: My Journey from #AntiVaxx to Science
- Antivax 101: Tactics and Tropes of the Antivaccine Movement
- Battling misinformed consent: How should we respond to the anti-vaccine
- Does society try to shame and shun vaccine refusers and the vaccine-averse?
- Pediatricians Who Refuse Families Who Don’t Immunize
- Study – Pediatrician-Parent Conversations About Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: An Analysis of Audio Recordings.
- Study – Provider communication and HPV vaccination: The impact of recommendation quality.
- Study – Communicating with parents about vaccination: a framework for health professionals
- Study – Vaccine Rejection and Hesitancy: A Review and Call to Action
- Study – Addressing heterogeneous parental concerns about vaccination with a multiple-source model: a parent and educator perspective.
- Study – Immunization attitudes and beliefs among parents: beyond a dichotomous perspective.
- Study – Identifying and Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy