How docs can sell hesitant parents on vaccines


When dealing with parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children, doctors should emphasize the benefit to the child, writes Kristin S. Hendrix, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, in an opinion piece for the Washington Post.

Concern for potential side effects is a major driver of parents' refusal to vaccinate, Hendrix writes, citing a 2011 study, and that refusal is a major public concern in the wake of a measles outbreak in California. Many of these parents take issue with the chemical components of vaccines, while others don't believe them to be effective or don't consider the diseases they protect against, such as chicken pox or influenza, serious enough to warrant the vaccination. A major part of the problem, she writes, is the phenomenon of biased assimilation, or giving more credence and attention to information one suspects is true. Due to this tendency, parents who already have unfounded suspicions about vaccines may seek out information that substantiates them when doing research.

Parental views on vaccines, Hendrix writes, fall along a wide spectrum, with those completely in favor and firmly opposed at opposite ends but various levels of uncertainty and hesitation in between. This variability means it's a good idea to base dialogue on parents' specific concerns, which improves the doctor-patient relationship and promotes trust. It's equally important to explicitly discuss the risk of not vaccinating, according to Hendrix. Although it will likely not do any harm to address the broader social benefits of vaccination, such as herd immunity, research indicates focusing specifically on health benefits to the child is a safer bet.

There are several other strategies to help parents make the best decision regarding vaccinations for their children, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported, including providing resources to push back against misinformation and discussing travel risks.

To learn more:
- read the opinion piece