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Canadian Paediatric Society

Don’t dismiss vaccine-hesitant parents, CPS advises doctors

May 3 2013

OTTAWA—When parents refuse to immunize, physicians should not dismiss children from their practice, says the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) in a new practice point released today. Instead, the goal should be to work with parents and address their concerns.

While most Canadian children are immunized on time, as many as 20 per cent of parents remain hesitant—have concerns about immunization, delay immunizations or outright refuse recommended vaccines.

"Since immunization is one of the most important preventive health measures, literally responsible for saving millions of lives, addressing the concerns of vaccine hesitant parents has to be a priority for health care providers,” said Dr. Noni MacDonald, paediatric infectious disease specialist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax and co-author of the new CPS practice point.

In recent years, the Internet, traditional media and celebrities have negatively impacted many parents’ perception of vaccine safety. Even 5-10 minutes spent on an anti-vaccine website can dramatically alter a parents’ perception of vaccine-risks.

“It’s important to reassure parents that vaccines are safe and effective, and to explain that if they decide not to vaccinate, they’re exposing their child and entire family to risk,” said Dr. Jane Finlay, co-author and member of the CPS Infectious Disease and Immunization Committee.  “Because of vaccination, today’s generation of parents haven’t seen diseases like measles or meningitis, so it’s important they understand these are still a very real threat.”

Research shows that a health care provider’s advice is a major influence on parental decision-making. That’s why the CPS recommends that health care providers understand the specific vaccine-related concerns of parents and take the time to address them.

“Often it takes times to build up a relationship of trust,” said Dr. Finlay. “By understanding a parent’s specific concern, it is easier to remedy misconceptions.”

For most parents, the main concern about immunization is vaccine safety.

About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,000 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: May 3 2013