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Addressing vaccine hesitancy with parents

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Your guide to effective and persuasive communication

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) named vaccine hesitancy as one of the ten leading threats to global health.1

Vaccine hesitancy—or the delay in the acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services2:

  • Is complex, varying across time, place, and vaccines2
  • Is influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience, and confidence2

It’s important to remember that choosing to delay or refuse a recommended vaccine, does not always mean a patient is anti-vaccination.3,4 In the US, UK, and Canada, <10% of respondents to a 2021 study appeared to be resolutely opposed to vaccines and vaccinations, ie, “anti-vax.”5,a

Ask probing questions to determine if your patient is merely hesitant and needs more information to feel confident in moving forward. 

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When it comes to vaccines, parents—including those who are hesitant—consider health care providers like you the most trusted source of information.8

Immunization is a key component of primary health care6

Our goal is to support vaccine uptake by helping you invest patients with greater confidence in7:

  • Recommended vaccinations
  • Providers who administer vaccines
  • Processes for vaccine approval and licensing
  • The CDC’s recommended immunization schedule

aAccording to the results of a survey of 13,251 online respondents on January 5-19, 2021.5

Supporting you, your patients, and your practice 

We invite you to explore sample communication scenarios rooted in evidence-based strategies for overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Grouped into three topic areas, these sample dialogues will help you address common vaccine questions and concerns with clarity and compassion.

Safety concerns/general mistrust:
“How do I know vaccines are safe?”
Lack of information:
“How do I know which vaccines I need/my child needs?”
Vaccine necessity:
“Why does my child need this vaccine? It’s not required by our school.”


  1. World Health Organization. Ten threats to global health in 2019. Vaccine hesitancy. Accessed March 6, 2024.
  2. MacDonald NE; SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy: definition, scope and determinants. Vaccine. 2015;33(34):4161-4164. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.04.036
  3. Pullan S, Dey M. Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination in the time of COVID-19: a Google Trends analysis. Vaccine. 2021;39(14):1877-1881. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2021.03.019
  4.  Peretti-Watel P, Larson HJ, Ward JK, Schulz WS, Verger P. Vaccine hesitancy: clarifying a theoretical framework for an ambiguous notion. PLoS Curr. 2015 Feb 25;7:ecurrents.outbreaks.6844c80ff9f5b273f34c91f71b7fc289. doi:10.1371/currents.outbreaks.6844c80ff9f5b273f34c91f71b7fc289
  5. Gravelle TB, Phillips JB, Reifler J, Scoto TJ. Estimating the size of “anti-vax” and vaccine hesitant populations in the US, UK, and Canada: comparative latent class modeling of vaccine attitudes. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2022;18(1):e2008214. doi:10.1080/21645515.2021.2008214
  6. World Health Organization. Vaccines and immunization. Accessed March 6, 2024.
  7. National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Assessing the state of vaccine confidence in the United States: recommendations from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee. Public Health Rep. 2015;130(6):573-595. doi:10.1177/003335491513000606
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Talking with parents about vaccines for infants. Reviewed April 11, 2018. Accessed March 6, 2024.