Educating Parents About Vaccinations
You’ve explained the benefits. You’ve shared facts. You’ve appealed to emotions. But still, you can’t get some parents to vaccinate their children. So now when a parent questions the safety and effectiveness of immunization, you may simply move on.
Don’t be that provider!
Instead of showing the door to vaccine-wary parents, take the time to understand differing views on vaccine benefits and risks, and be prepared to effectively respond to concerns and queries.
Here are a few tips:
Encourage and solicit questions
Take questions and give open and honest answers to those questions. Even if someone is uninformed or misinformed, you need to treat their concerns politely and respectfully. Put yourself in the parents’ place, and acknowledge their emotions and feelings, including their longing to protect their children. Tell parents that you understand why they are concerned – their children’s wellbeing is their top priority. Tell them that it is yours, too.
Acknowledge personal efforts
In today’s digital world, it’s not unusual for parents to come in with a list of questions or research from the internet. This isn’t a lack of disrespect for your profession or the published guidelines by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) – it’s simply earnest concern to understand what is right for their children. It’s important to acknowledge that parents have dedicated a lot of time to researching vaccine-related information. Being dismissive of their efforts may shut down important conversations and erode trust.
Remind parents who defer immunization of their obligations to protect other children and families, including children who may be immune-compromised. Discuss the role they can play by getting their children vaccinated on time. Additionally, advise parents on child-care and state-school entry laws, which might require unvaccinated children to stay at home during outbreaks of vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Mix the science with personal anecdotes
Some parents feel more confident when a healthcare provider uses facts and figures to explain the benefits of vaccination. For others, a story from your experience about a vaccinated child who avoided illness is more reassuring than any scientific evidence. To effectively address parents’ concerns, be prepared to use a mix of science and anecdotal information that increases their trust in the effectiveness of the procedure.
Communicate potential side effects
It’s always important to communicate the potential side effects of flu vaccines to parents. While doing so, highlight the overwhelming protection and benefits vaccination provide. Parents need to understand that they are taking a much larger risk by not having their children vaccinated. Serious side effects following the procedure, such as severe allergy, are very rare, and any discomfort at the site of injection is minimal compared to the trauma and pain of the diseases that timely immunization prevents.
Ease the fear of shots
Both parents and children often find shots a stressful experience. You can convey that crying is a natural reaction for children, and advise parents to stay calm as their composure can have a direct impact on how their infant or toddler behaves. Also, inform parents that their children’s fear might be an actual phobia, so it has to be treated with great care and respect. It’s usually empathy, not rationale, that works best for alleviating shot-related fear.
If parents still refuse to proceed, take the following measures:
- Provide them with educational resources, informative websites, and Vaccine Information Statements.
- Share clinical presentations of vaccine-preventable illnesses, including early signs and symptoms.
- Highlight how vaccination has reduced and, in some cases, eliminated several diseases (polio, smallpox, etc.) that severely disabled or killed children just a few generations ago.
- Tell parents to call before bringing an affected child into the clinic so you can take precautions to protect others.
- Continue educating them about vaccines in future visits and reinforce the benefits of immunization.
- Personalize the resources provided to parents based on literacy level, vaccine concerns, and cultural beliefs.
Aside from using these strategies, explore whether certain parents are willing to have their children receive certain vaccines or be vaccinated in a particular season. You can also invite them to delay the procedure if they have misgivings and then follow-up regularly to see if they change their mind.