How Pharmacists Can Reason with Anti-Vaxxers

MAY 22, 2016

Pharmacists have likely heard parents’ flawed fears that vaccines cause autism, sudden infant death syndrome, febrile seizures, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

There are lots of odd rumors floating around on the Internet about vaccines, including a fear that children will contract the disease the vaccine is supposed to prevent. Despite these rumors, almost all health care providers, the CDC, and a slew of other medical organizations agree that vaccines are the best choice for children’s health.

So, how can pharmacists get staunchly anti-vaccine patients to listen to scientific reasoning? And how can pharmacists convince them that vaccines aren’t dangerous and will help prevent life-threatening diseases in their children?
Appeal to Their Emotions
The anti-vaccine argument is based on emotion, not fact. Don’t believe me? Try stating every fact about vaccines’ safety to an anti-vaxxer.
There are libraries filled with documentation, research, and empirical evidence that vaccines have significantly decreased the incidence of diseases. Why won’t anti-vaxxers believe this plethora of evidence-based medicine?

Think about it this way: the risks of experiencing life-altering side effects caused by vaccines themselves are almost nonexistent, and the benefits of prevention win, hands down. This simple argument should convince the public, right? Something with extremely low side effects that prevents deadly diseases should be a no-brainer. Despite this simple fact, the “evidence” against vaccines validates anti-vaxxers’ beliefs.
Pharmacists need to understand that changing a patient’s mind about an emotional topic such as vaccination is nearly impossible, especially if you hardly know the patient. If the facts haven’t changed an anti-vaxxer’s mind by now, it’s naïve to think your recitation of the benefits of vaccination would make a difference.

Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.