One of the first things recommended for doctors faced with vaccine hesitant parents (a term reportedly coined to “depolarize the ‘pro’ versus ‘anti’ vaccination alignment and to express the spectrum of parental attitudes toward vaccines [5]) is to categorize the parents by degree of and reasons for reluctance, in order to determine the best strategy for changing hesitancy to compliance.

Scott Halperin, MD, is credited with identifying the “five types of vaccine-hesitant parents,” classified as follows in a blog post for “National Immunization Awareness Month” [6]:

  1. “Uninformed But Want To Become Informed” parents are defined as those who turn to their trusted physician because of his or her expertise and want to be reassured and educated about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. It is suggested that these parents can be educated about the science in simple terms without using too much jargon, and that sharing personal experiences—such as the fact that the physician’s own children are fully vaccinated—may help.
  2. “Misinformed But Correctable” describes parents considered to have been fooled by exploitative, anonymous online reporting that plays into their worst fears, despite the “strength of the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective.” For these parents, it is suggested that sound data de-bunking the myths they’ve bought into should do the trick. It is also said to be important to both acknowledge the risks and limitations of vaccines and to respect their parental authority… but to very clearly stress the “strong benefits of vaccines.”
  3. “Well-Read and Open-Minded” parents are described as having absorbed so much information on both sides of the issue that they come to their physician with many questions and concerns. These parents require help in evaluating the information they have heard. It is recommended that the doctor have sound data and appropriate websites to refer them to, in order to refute any “misinformation” they have received. A reassuring follow-up phone call is also said to be helpful.
  4. “Convinced and Content” parents are categorized as those who are “convinced vaccines are bad, but come to [their physician] to prove they are open-minded.” The strategy to deal with such parents is described as “acknowledging their concerns but strongly refuting them with scientific data.”
  5. “Committed and Missionary” is the final category identified for vaccine questioners. These people are said to be “card-carrying anti-vaccine activists who try and convert you to their position.” Some of the suggestions for dealing with such parents include stressing the positive effects of vaccines, and making sure they understand the responsibilities and risks they are accepting if they choose not to vaccinate. Physicians are encouraged to “Be patient, as correcting anti-vaccine myths and changing parent attitudes does not happen overnight.”

Read more at vaccineimpact.com/