Vaccine hesitancy

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Introduction

Despite vaccination being an effective way of managing the general health of the public by maintaining a healthy generation since childhood, it has always been faced with the challenge of resistant and hesitant parents. Parents are the major children’s caregivers and when they are hesitant to their children being immunized, this poses a major challenge to the public health of the children. Being hesitant to vaccinate involves the concerns raised by the parents on whether to vaccinate their children or not (Bazeley & Kemp, 1994, p. 14). Vaccine hesitancy is contributed by a broad range of factors such as unfamiliarity of the parent with the vaccine-preventable illnesses, coincidentally relating the vaccine to adverse health outcomes, the compulsory nature of the vaccine, and mistrusting public health agencies. In most cases, vaccine hesitancy is significantly caused by reasons that range from personal beliefs to religious objections, the lack of accurate information, preferences for natural immunity, and safety concerns (Leask et.al, 2012, p. 1486). Due to the importance of vaccination and immunization in public health, this issue of vaccine hesitancy needs to be addressed.

Convincing Parents to Proceed with Vaccination 

Since vaccine hesitancy is caused by complex and multifactorial issues, a wide array of approaches can be implemented on the national, health system, provider, and individual level to convince “fence sitter” parents to get their children vaccinated. Trust issues are the most significant factors behind vaccine hesitancy since most parents raise concerns that children are now getting so many vaccinations that are not important (Bazeley & Kemp, 1994, p. 16). It is thus important to give the concerned parents adequate communication about vaccines and provide them individually tailored messages about the benefits of proceeding with the vaccination of their children. Importantly, it is crucial to help the parents understand the potential ability of vaccines in preventing diseases and saving lives. Essentially, the parental acceptance of a vaccine is the greatest determinant of the success of the vaccine (Leask, 2011, p. 44). As such, hesitant parents require confidence in the healthcare providers administering the vaccine, vaccine itself, and the system to ensure the safety of the vaccine. This requires effective communication strategies targeting and tailored specifically for the hesitant parents to effectively address the concerns and elicit the motivation for changing the negative views about the vaccine.

Managing Continued Refusal to Immunization

It is sometimes difficult to convince a parent on the health benefits of vaccines depending on the personal, religious, and political beliefs of the parent. Such parents are likely to express their continued displeasure with the vaccines and may continue to refuse to immunize their children. To manage these situations, it is important to understand and differentiate if the concern of the parent is based on the beliefs about specific vaccines, immunization in general, or about the disease (Leask, 2011, p. 45). Some parents refuse immunization due to their preferences for natural immunity, beliefs that a disease does not exist, or safety concerns about a specific vaccine. Other than showing the parent how important or not important a vaccine is, these underlying issues should be addressed. Most importantly, the hesitant parents must appreciate the safety, effectiveness, and importance of a vaccine for their tendency to refuse the immunization be managed successfully (Leask et.al, 2012, p. 1474). Although anti-vaccine sentiments are inevitable, proactive communications plans should be used to engage and monitor the public by assuring it of the effectiveness, safety and importance of vaccination programs.

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  1. Bazeley, P & Kemp, L 1994, ‘Parental beliefs, attitudes and behaviors’ and ‘Provider attitudes, knowledge and behavior’, in Childhood immunization the role of parents and service providers: A review of the literature, AGPS, Canberra, pp. 13-29.
  2. Leask, J 2011, ‘Target the fence sitters’, Nature, vol. 473, no. 7348, pp. 443-445.
  3. Leask, J, Kinnersley, P, Jackson, C, Cheater, F, Bedford, HE & Rowles, G 2012, ‘Communicating with parents about vaccination: A framework for health professionals’,           BMC Pediatrics, vol. 12, no. 154, pp. 1471-2431.
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