Talking with parents who are ready to vaccinate

Talking with parents who are ready to vaccinate

Parents who are ready to vaccinate their children usually have a positive relationship with their healthcare providers and tend to trust medical advice. Nevertheless, as many as 50 per cent or more of these parents will have some questions about vaccination1. Some parents say they are concerned that providers will think they are ‘antivaxxers’ if they ask questions during a vaccination consultation2. Parents who feel their questions have been dismissed by health professionals may be more vulnerable to misinformation3.

The goals for a consultation with a parent who is ready to vaccinate are:

  • to prevent hesitancy
  • to support timely vaccination

How to recognise parents who are ready to vaccinate

Parents who are ready to vaccinate:

Tips for supporting parents who are ready to vaccinate

Consultations with parents who are ready to vaccinate are usually straightforward. A positive interaction with a health professional can reinforce parents’ confidence in vaccination; negative or dismissive interactions may contribute to the development of hesitance.

The process we recommend below is designed to prevent hesitance and facilitate valid consent. Valid consent requires parents to

  • be competent to make the decision
  • be provided with sufficient information
  • understand the information provided
  • and be able to act freely and voluntarily.

Parents do not need all the available information about a vaccine to achieve valid consent. Therefore, you are only obliged (legally and ethically) to provide information that is material (of value or importance) to the parent. This is best achieved through an interaction with parents that enables you to identify what is material to the parent4.

< Elicit questions

Elicit questions

“What questions do you have today?”

“Do you have some questions?”

Inviting and addressing parents’ questions supports their sense of agency and facilitates valid consent5. Accepting their questions2 enables you to identify their concerns, build trust, and provide them with the information that is material to them. This can help prevent concerns from escalating into hesitancy3.

Some parents need permission to express and explore their concerns2. Asking a positively framed question such as “Do you have some questions?” has been found to reduce unmet patient concerns when compared with the more familiar “Do you have any questions?” perhaps because this negatively framed question signals the end of a consultation5.

< Share knowledge about immunisation

Provide information

“There are some things we can to do make vaccination easier for Zac.” 

 “Aisha might feel mildly unwell in the days after vaccination, but most don’t children have any noticeable reaction at all. After we vaccinate her, I can give you some information to help you look after her if she does feel unwell.”

Parents who feel their questions have been dismissed by health professionals may be more vulnerable to misinformation3. Using the baby’s name reassures parents that your recommendation is tailored to the needs of their child.

Vaccinate, then book next appointment

“Let’s book the next appointment before you leave today to be sure Dylan gets the next dose on time.”

Booking an appointment for the next dose and sending parents reminders results in more timely vaccination uptake6. It may also reduce the risk of days spent under-vaccinated.

  1. Chow M, et al. Parental attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and concerns towards childhood vaccinations in Australia: a national online survey. Australian Family Physician 2017;46(3):145-151.,-beliefs,-behaviours-and-concerns-towards-childhood-vaccinations-in-australia-a-national-online-survey/
  2. Berry, NJ, et al. Sharing knowledge about immunisation (SKAI): An exploration of parents’ communication needs to inform development of a clinical communication support intervention. Vaccine, Volume 36, Issue 44, 22 October 2018, Pages 6480-6490):
  3. Benin AL, et al. Qualitative analysis of mothers’ decision-making about vaccines for infants: the importance of trust. Pediatrics 2006; 117: 1532-1541.
  4. Leask, JA, et al. Consent and public engagement in an era of expanded childhood immunisation. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2011; 47(9):
  5. Heritage J, et al. Reducing patients’ unmet concerns in primary care: the difference one word can make. Journal of General Internal Medicine 2007; 22: 1429-1433.
  6. Jacobson Vann JC, et al. Patient reminder and recall systems to improve immunization rates. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005(3):1465-1858. 

Talking with parents who are ready to vaccinate