Nearly all pediatricians encounter parents who want to do what is best for their child – even though it may mean they have questions about vaccines. Every parent is different and not all methods of communicating work for every parent or physician .

Following are methods you can try to reassure parents in some circumstances. To begin:

  • Listen to parents' concerns and acknowledge them in a non-confrontational manner. Allowing parents to express their concerns will increase their willingness to listen to your views.
  • Promote partnerships with parents in decision-making and personalize these relationships. Provide the important information first. Make sure the parent understands the information. Clarify and reaffirm parents' correct beliefs about immunization and modify misconceptions.
  • Encourage parents to think about vaccines as software updates for your cell phone that help to update the immune system to stay healthy to respond to germs.
  • Explain where disinformation about vaccines comes from and identify who benefits from it.
  • Be open about what is known about immunizations and what is not known. Provide parents with Vaccine Information Statements, educational resources, and reliable websites. Personalize the information provided to parents based on cultural beliefs, vaccine concerns, and literacy level.
  • Cue the idea that vaccines are one of the most significant scientific achievements of the past century.
  • Mention collective benefits at least as often as individual benefits. Stress the number of lives saved by immunization, as a positive approach, rather than focusing on the number of deaths from not immunizing.
  • Explain what clinical trials are, how they work, and why they are the main reason why well-known vaccines have been and continue to be so successful.
  • Stress that vaccination is the most effective way to equip the immune system so children can stay healthy and thrive.

Key points to consider:

  • Parents include their pediatrician as a source of information to help decide about their child's health care.
  • Most parents vaccinate their children.

Strategies for Talking to Parents:

“Truth sandwich” messaging

When messages about immunizations get repeated, the information sticks whether it is true or false. To correct a falsehood when talking with parents, try making a “truth sandwich.” The correct information is the bread, and the wrong information is sandwiched in between. The approach works because our brains remember what we hear first and what we hear most often.

For examples, see this video and the scripts below::

Following is an example of a “truth sandwich” response that pediatricians could use to shift the conversation when parents present misinformation about vaccines.

Positive: “Parents and doctors agree kids deserve to be safe and healthy.”

Debunk: “Anyone holding up one study or statistic to undermine the advice of nearly all pediatricians is painting a misleading picture for their own gain.”

Positive: “Instead, let’s support healthy communities by vaccinating children to help their bodies recognize and resist disease.”

Presumptive Vs. Participatory Recommendations

Researchers found that pediatricians who provided a "presumptive recommendation" – informed parents that shots were due, rather than a "participatory recommendation" – asking what the parent thought about shots, were more likely to see parents accept vaccines.

Opel, et al. The Architecture of Provider-Parent Vaccine Discussions at Health Supervision Visits. 2013. Pediatrics, 134, 139, 2013-2037.

Opel, et al. Impact of Childhood Vaccine Discussion Format Over Time on Immunization Status, Acad Pediatr. 2018 May-Jun;18(4):430-436. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2017.12.009. Epub 2018 Jan 8.



  • "Do you want to vaccinate your child today?"
  • "What do you think about vaccines?"
  • "Would you like to hear about the vaccines we offer for today's visit?"


  • "Today your child is due for 2 vaccines. We will be giving MMR and Varicella."
  • "It's time for an annual influenza vaccine. Your child is old enough to receive either the inactivated shot or the live nasal spray."

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American Academy of Pediatrics