If you have a good relationship with the parent or carer, it may help to speak about your own experience receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or taking your child for their COVID-19 vaccine.
Motivational interviewing skills – similar to the techniques you might employ during smoking cessation counselling – may also be helpful to explain the individual benefits of vaccinating their child. These benefits could include protecting a vulnerable relative, or reducing time in self-isolation if they are deemed to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19.
Pivot vaccine risks raised by the parent into vaccine benefits – even though there are risks with COVID-19 vaccines; the risks associated with a COVID-19 infection are higher.2
Once you have addressed the concerns of a vaccine-hesitant parent, summarise your argument and reiterate any motivational factors that could increase the likelihood of their child receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) website recommends using presumptive communication. This approach means you assume that the vaccine-hesitant parent is satisfied with your responses to their concerns. For example, you could say, “Now that you’ve heard why it’s important for [insert child’s name] to be vaccinated against COVID-19, should we make an appointment for them next week?”5
Research suggests that presumptive language is more effective than conversational language. A US study found that 74% of parents accepted their health provider’s recommendation when presumptive language was used, while only 4% accepted the recommendation when the health provider used conversational language.7
Professor Julia Leask believes that some vaccine-hesitant parents reach a point where they almost want the clinician to make the decision for them. In such situations the conversation could be framed as, “You’re clearly torn about this, but I’d love to see [insert child’s name] vaccinated today. Would you be willing to do that?”
She notes that the ‘would you be willing?’ question is important because it reinforces that the parent has agency. It’s a decision they are making, and they are in charge of.2