Clinical Inquiries

Which interventions are effective in managing parental vaccine refusal?

Author and Disclosure Information



Corrective information doesn’t help with the most worried parents

A subsequent RCT tested whether correcting the myth that the flu vaccine can give people the flu would reduce belief in the misconception, increase perceptions that the flu vaccine is safe, and increase vaccination intent.4 Respondents to a national online poll of 1000 people received one of 3 interventions: correctional education (information debunking the myth), risk education (information about the risks of influenza infection), or no additional education.

Although about a third of parents cite herd immunity as a motivation to vaccinate, its efficacy in addressing vaccine hesitancy isn't clear.

Corrective information about the flu vaccine reduced the false belief that the vaccine can cause the flu by 15% to 20% and that the flu vaccine is unsafe by 5% to 10% (data from graphs; P<.05 for both effects). However, corrective information actually decreased parental intention to vaccinate among the group most concerned about the adverse effects of the vaccine (data from graph and text: +5% in the low-concern group vs −18% in the high-concern group; P<.05).

A presumptive approach works—but at a cost

A subsequent observational study videotaped 111 patient-provider vaccine discussions.5 Researchers categorized the initiation of the vaccine discussion as presumptive (eg, “We have to do some shots.”) or participatory (eg, “What do you want to do about shots?”). Using a presumptive style was more likely to result in acceptance of all recommended vaccines by the end of the visit (90% vs 17%; P<.05), but it decreased the chance of a highly rated visit experience (63% vs 95%; P<.05).


The 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Pink Book recommends a combination of strategies, aimed at both providers and the public, for increasing and maintaining high immunization rates. The Pink Book advises providers to be ready to address vaccine safety concerns raised by parents.6

In a 2012 guideline, the CDC encouraged providers to listen attentively, be ready with scientific information and reliable resources, and use appropriate anecdotes in communicating with vaccine-hesitant parents.7 The guideline recommended against excluding families who refuse vaccination from the practice.


Evidence-based answers from the Family Physicians Inquiries Network

Next Article: