MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

CPS suggests doctors work with vaccine-hesitant parents

When parents refuse to get their children immunized, doctors should not dismiss the parents and children from their practice, according to a new practice point released on Friday by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

As many as 20 percent of parents remain hesitant about vaccines, have immunization concerns, delay immunizations or outright refuse recommended immunizations. The CPS recommends that pediatricians work with parents to address their vaccination concerns.

"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," Noni MacDonald, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the IWK Health Center in Halifax, said.

Parents' perception of vaccine safety has been altered by traditional media, the internet and celebrities. Even a short time spent on an anti-vaccine website may significantly alter a parent's 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," Jane Finlay, a co-author of the CPS practice point, said. "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 demonstrates that the advice of a healthcare provider can serve as a major influence on parental decision making. The CPS recommends providers understand the vaccine-related concerns of parents and take the necessary time to address them.

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

The CPS is a national advocacy association promoting the health needs of children and youth that represents more than 3,000 health professionals throughout Canada.