5 Tips for Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

June 2016, Vol 4, No 6 - Inside Patient Care

Characterized by a delayed acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite their availability, vaccine hesitancy is a complex and rapidly evolving global problem attributed to factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence.1 Although there is no single intervention strategy for all instances of vaccine hesitancy, the World Health Organization asserts that the most effective interventions addressing the outcome of vaccination uptake are dialogue-based, multi-component, and directly target unvaccinated or under-vaccinated populations. The following tips may be helpful when communicating with patients about their vaccine hesitancy:

  1. Be an Active Listener
    When talking with patients about their vaccine hesitancy, or hesitation to vaccinate someone under their care, give them your full attention. Avoid multitasking when they are speaking, maintain eye contact with them, and repeat back their concerns to make sure you understand their point of view.
  2. Discuss Risks and Benefits
    In addition to talking about the benefits of preventing potentially serious diseases with vaccines, be sure to remain open about any known side effects of vaccines.
  3. Decrease the Stress of Injections
    Show parents expressing vaccine hesitancy toward their children ways that they can make the experience less stressful for their infant or child. This can include reinforcing that crying is a normal response from a child, and using methods such as singing, storytelling, or even incorporation of a favorite blanket or toy to distract them while their shot is being administered.
  4. Maintain an Open Dialogue
    When parents come to you with questions or information that they acquired through personal research and from the Internet, acknowledge that spending time researching vaccines means that this is an important topic to them. Avoid appearing offended by any questions or implying that a parent’s questions are unjustified, as this may shut down communication and lead to an erosion of trust.
  5. Record Concerns and Follow-Up
    Keep a thorough record of your discussions with patients who have vaccine hesitancy; these documents will be an invaluable reference during future visits. To provide comfort and reinforce trust, follow-up with your patients who expressed worry or doubt a few days after their visit via a call or e-mail.


  1. World Health Organization. Summary WHO SAGE conclusions and recommendations on vaccine hesitancy. www.who.int/immunization/programmes_systems/summary_of_sage_vaccinehesitancy_2pager.pdf?ua=1. Published January 2015. Accessed June 14, 2016.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Talking with parents about vaccines for infants: strategies for health care professionals. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/downloads/talk-infants-color-office.pdf. Updated March 2012. Accessed June 14, 2016.
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Last modified: July 26, 2016
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