Risk Management Tools & Resources


Strategies for Communicating With Vaccine-Hesitant Parents of Pediatric Patients: Discuss Benefits and Risks


Laura M. Cascella, MA, CPHRM

Discussing benefits and risks of proposed treatments, therapies, and medications — including vaccinations — is an essential part of educating parents and involving them in their children's care. Pediatric providers should make parents aware of the beneficial aspects of immunizations and their potential adverse outcomes (e.g., allergic reactions, fever, rash, soreness, headaches, tiredness, etc.).

Pediatric providers can communicate more in-depth information when talking with parents who have concerns about vaccines or who are hesitant to vaccinate their children. Such information might include how vaccines work (including the concept of herd immunity), how vaccines are tested and monitored for safety, and the rationale behind the recommended childhood immunization schedule.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends focusing conversations on vaccines' achievements, noting "Parents often are more likely to be persuaded by stories and anecdotes about the successes of vaccines. Personal examples of children who were sick with vaccine-preventable illnesses can be much more effective than simply reading the numbers of children infected with a disease each year. . ."1

Written educational materials also can help raise awareness and reinforce essential information about vaccinations. Federal law requires healthcare staff to provide Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) to patients, parents, or legal guardians before each dose of certain vaccines.2

In addition to the provision of VISs, pediatric providers also can direct parents to educational print and digital materials about vaccines from credible sources, such as the AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute for Vaccine Safety. Giving parents additional information and resources can help them make more informed decisions about their children's care and play an active role in shared decision-making.

For more strategies on addressing vaccine hesitancy, see Communicating Effectively With Vaccine-Hesitant Parents of Pediatric Patients.


1 Edwards, K. M., & Hackell, J. M. (2016). Countering vaccine hesitancy. Pediatrics, 138(3), e20162146. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2146

2 42 U.S.C. § 300aa–26; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, December 17 [last reviewed]). Facts about VISs. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/about/facts-vis.html

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