Expert: Pharmacists Should Remember Vaccine Hesitancy Among Parents Is ‘Coming From a Good Place’

Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, discusses how health care professionals should approach discussing issues around vaccine hesitancy with parents.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, on the future of COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children.

Lieberman was a speaker at the World Vaccine Congress in a session on COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children, specifically in light of his unique perspective on the subject due to having enrolled his twin daughters in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Alana Hippensteele: How do you think health care professionals should approach vaccine hesitancy among parents?

Jay Lieberman: Yeah, the hesitancy is understandable. The first thing you have to understand is that when the parent is hesitant about vaccinating their own child, it's coming from a good place. All parents want to do what's right for their child, want to do what's best, and so you've got to approach it from that perspective.

The next thing you want to do is ask why they're hesitant. There's a lot of misinformation out there, a lot of nonsense, quite frankly, but what you don't want to do is launch into a lecture about why it's important to be vaccinated.

So, ask directly, why are you hesitant, and respond to that question, and when you make that connection and realize the decision they're making is primarily an emotional one, and when you can recognize that and respond to them on a personal level, in many cases you can overcome that hesitancy.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, yeah. What are some methods of helping parents feel safer for their children? You mentioned listening, would you say that there's any sort of best practices for pharmacists trying to communicate on this issue?

Jay Lieberman: So, first of all, I think one of the keys is to have the parent or the patient find someone they trust and talk to someone they trust. That may be the child's pediatrician or family doctor, it may be the pharmacist. So, having that trust that you're getting good information is critical.

Then, as I said, it's responding to their specific concerns. A general lecture is not going to do it. Understand where they're coming from, understand the emotion involved, and try to reassure them that the FDA authorized the use for the vaccine, the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended the vaccine based on the trials, based on the safety profile.

They're highly effective vaccines, we've got a lot of experience with them now, and so the parents need some reassurance more than anything else that this is something they probably want to do for their children.