How do I deal with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?

vaccinationLet’s face it: There has been a lot of scary stuff in the news about vaccinations. From autism fears to reports of children dying after vaccination, parents have some real concerns.
So take their concerns seriously. It does absolutely no good to say, “Oh, don’t worry. Vaccines are perfectly safe.” If anything, a comment like that damages your credibility and may destroy the professional-client relationship.

Take some time to find out why the parents object to vaccination. Some religious groups are opposed to vaccination, so if that’s the reason, save yourself and the parents some time and back off. (Every state allows religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations.)

Some states allow exemptions for “personal beliefs,” but taking a minute to ask what their objections are can be enlightening. If they’re concerned about thimersol, a controversial preservative that contains mercury, talk to them about thimersol-free options. If they worry that too many vaccines too soon can overwhelm a young immune system, convey their concerns to the doctor, who may be willing to order a revised vaccination schedule.

If the parents are open to additional information, connect them with reliable sources such as the CDC (check out cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/basic/parents.htm). Praise their concern for their child. Let them know that they’re welcome to consider the information and return at a later date, if they so desire.

If not, respect their decision. Discuss the signs and symptoms of common, vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses with them (pertussis, for example, is on the rise), and be sure to let them know that they can return at any time for treatment.

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