Tactics Doctors Use to Pressure Hesitant Parents to Vaccinate

Tactics Doctors Use to Pressure Hesitant Parents to Vaccinate
doctor talking to parent and childStory Highlights
  • Doctors report significantly more patients have questions about vaccination compared to 2006.
  • Mainstream medical professionals and government officials have devised a number of strategies to “re-educate” and try to change the minds of vaccine hesitators.
  • Tactics range from appealing to parents’ societal obligations and showing them photographs of seriously sick children to offering candy as an incentive and increasing the difficulty of obtaining vaccine exemptions.

The number of parents questioning the wisdom of the currently recommended schedule is up and corroboration is easy to find.1 An article in the journal Pediatrics in August 2016 reported that the number of pediatricians encountering parents who either question vaccine safety or refuse one or more vaccines or want to use an alternative vaccination schedule for their children increased from just under 75 percent in 2006 to 87 percent by 2013.2

A study from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics3 reported that the primary reasons given for vaccine hesitancy or refusal of one or more recommended vaccinations include concern over pain associated with multiple injections (44 percent); too many vaccines given 
at one time (34 percent); the possibility of vaccines causing autism or other learning disabilities (26 percent, down from the 2006 survey); concern that there is an association between vaccines and chronic illnesses (13.5 percent); and lack of adequate safety studies (13.2 percent). Some parents also are questioning whether so many childhood vaccines are necessary (up from the 2006 survey), and whether experience with natural disease is better for children than repeated artificial manipulation of the immune system by vaccinations.

Overall, fewer parents are focused specifically on fears of autism compared with a few years ago. Instead, parents are expressing broader concerns such as the potential effects on immune system function, worries over how the injection of so many toxins may affect their child’s well-being long term, lack of adequate vaccine safety studies, and protection of parental rights to make informed medical decisions for their children.4

The general consensus that vaccine hesitancy is on the rise has spawned a host articles in the medical literature and in the media about how to “fix the problem.” Many doctors and and health care professionals have serious questions themselves and agree that vaccine decisions should be left to parents, but a far more common position holds that parents should not have the final say on vaccine decisions and that it is a societal obligation for doctors to change the mind of anyone who disagrees with current vaccine recommendations. A quick Google search of “vaccine hesitancy” turns up mountains of advice on how to persuade so-called “misinformed” or “confused” parents to change their minds and get with the program.

From tired old references to the “debunked” notion that vaccines cause autism to condescending suggestions for educating, incentivizing or coercing reluctant patients or parents to accept all recommended vaccines, it can be intimidating to even admit to having questions about vaccination. It may help to know what to expect and to recognize pressure strategies that may be used.

Categorizing the Vaccine Hesitant

One of the first things recommended for doctors faced with vaccine hesitant parents (a term reportedly coined to “depolarize the ‘pro’ versus ‘anti’ vaccination alignment and to express the spectrum of parental attitudes toward vaccines5) is to categorize the parents by degree of and reasons for reluctance, in order to determine the best strategy for changing hesitancy to compliance.

Scott Halperin, MD, is credited with identifying the “five types of vaccine-hesitant parents,” classified as follows in a blog post for “National Immunization Awareness Month”6:

  1. “Uninformed But Want To Become Informed” parents are defined as those who turn to their trusted physician because of his or her expertise and want to be reassured and educated about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. It is suggested that these parents can be educated about the science in simple terms without using too much jargon, and that sharing personal experiences—such as the fact that the physician’s own children are fully vaccinated—may help.
  2. “Misinformed But Correctable” describes parents considered to have been fooled by exploitative, anonymous online reporting that plays into their worst fears, despite the “strength of the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective.” For these parents, it is suggested that sound data de-bunking the myths they’ve bought into should do the trick. It is also said to be important to both acknowledge the risks and limitations of vaccines and to respect their parental authority… but to very clearly stress the “strong benefits of vaccines.”
  3. “Well-Read and Open-Minded” parents are described as having absorbed so much information on both sides of the issue that they come to their physician with many questions and concerns. These parents require help in evaluating the information they have heard. It is recommended that the doctor have sound data and appropriate websites to refer them to, in order to refute any “misinformation” they have received. A reassuring follow-up phone call is also said to be helpful.
  4. “Convinced and Content” parents are categorized as those who are “convinced vaccines are bad, but come to [their physician] to prove they are open-minded.” The strategy to deal with such parents is described as “acknowledging their concerns but strongly refuting them with scientific data.”
  5. “Committed and Missionary” is the final category identified for vaccine questioners. These people are said to be “card-carrying anti-vaccine activists who try and convert you to their position.” Some of the suggestions for dealing with such parents include stressing the positive effects of vaccines, and making sure they understand the responsibilities and risks they are accepting if they choose not to vaccinate. Physicians are encouraged to “Be patient, as correcting anti-vaccine myths and changing parent attitudes does not happen overnight.”

Going Beyond Official Policy Education

If gentle persuasion and carefully scripted education are not enough to convince parents to fully vaccinate their children, other means of doing so have been identified by some doctors.

One ploy is referred to as “presumptive delivery,” in which the physician begins by presenting vaccination as a requirement to prevent disease rather than as an optional course of action.7 Similarly, a “strategy of inconvenience” is alleged to be pretty effective. For example, when a step was added requiring Michigan parents seeking a vaccine exemption to meet in person with a “county health educator” before being granted the exemption, the number of requests dropped by 35 percent in one year, and vaccination rates rose. Health policy specialist Mark Largent said the idea was to make the “process more burdensome,” adding that, “Moral claims and ideology don’t matter as much when it’s inconvenient.”8

Appealing to a parent’s sense of societal obligation is another tactic used frequently. Pediatrician Richard Lander, MD expressed a common opinion when he said that it is important to help “people view vaccines as protecting overall community health, similar to the way other laws are designed to protect community health.”9

Dr. Lander further suggested that “If a parent decides not to give vaccines, perhaps the insurance companies should charge them higher premiums since their risk of preventable infections is higher; and maybe if someone contracts a preventable illness from their child, the parents should be financially responsible for the health care costs involved. This would place more responsibility upon those parents and really alert them to how their decision doesn’t only affect their child.”9

Guilt and fear tactics are also said to be effective, as when a physician asks, “Do you really want your child to have to suffer through a disease you either had as a child or never had to have yourself?” or plays up the risks of “vaccine preventable diseases” with photographs and horror stories of children who became very ill or died from one of those diseases.

Some physicians resort to denying medical care to children if parents refuse to give their children all federally recommended vaccines according to the CDC’s recommended schedule.

If all else fails, offering candy is a suggested bribe for convincing the truly intractable. No joke. Health officials in Ireland suggest that uptake of the flu vaccine can be increased substantially among nurses by offering chocolate or drawings for iPads to nurses who agree to be vaccinated.10 Although the comments were roundly criticized for being patronizing and condescending, they offer a telling glimpse into the way people who question the safety of vaccines are viewed by public health officials and the mainstream medical community.


1 McKee C. Exploring the Reasons Behind Parental Refusal of Vaccines. J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther (NCBI) March-April 2016.
Hough-Telford K, et al. Vaccine Delays, Refusals, and Patient Dismissals: A Survey of Pediatricians. Pediatrics August 2016.
Kennedy A, et al. Vaccine Attitudes, Concerns, and Information Sources Reported by Parents of Young Children: Results From the 2009 HealthStyles Survey. Pediatrics Apr. 18, 2011.
4 National Vaccine Information Center. Vaccine Laws. NVIC.org 2017.
Edwards K, et al. Countering Vaccine Hesitancy. Clinical Report: Pediatrics. August 2016.
Healy M. 5 Types of Vaccine –Hesitant Parents. NFID News Aug. 28, 2015.
Aymes S. Navigating Vaccine Hesitancy: What Can the Physician Do? Medical News Today Apr. 18, 2017.
Mole B. Strategy of “inconvenience” may be the best way to boost vaccination rates. ARS Technica Apr. 13, 2017.
Multifaceted Approach Advocated for Vaccine-Hesitant Parents. Infectious Diseases in Children June 2011.
Chocolates Suggested as Incentive for Nurses’ Vaccinations. RTE May 11, 2017.

33 Responses to "Tactics Doctors Use to Pressure Hesitant Parents to Vaccinate"

  1. Sandra Lee Smith   June 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Parents are catching on! People in general are not buying the lies and sales gimmicks so much any longer. And that’s GOOD for their children, as well as themselves. IF this whole “vaccination” program was really about increasing health, there’d be FAR fewer adverse reactions and events associated with them, but, like EVERYTHING else the government pushes in the world today, it’s all about separating people from their money to line someone else’ pockets!

  2. To woolf   June 1, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    I dont understand what all the fuss is about. Of course vaccines are dangerous and can cause autism, it says so on the safety circular of the flu vaccine printed by the manufacturer themselves. On one side it says it is known to cause encephalopathy, Vaccine Court code speak for “autism”. And on the other side it goes so far as to use the actual “A” word itself when it lists autism as one of the possible side effects. It baffles me how this “debate” can rage on in the public venue when it has already been ended by public admission of guilt, in print, by the vaccine makers themselves!

    • Luke B   June 2, 2017 at 7:50 am

      Hi To Woolf. I don’t think you understand how those warnings work. There is not evidence (good, valid evidence I should say) that vaccines cause autism. Correlation does not demonstrate causation. Please re-read the influenza disclaimer you think serves as proof vaccines cause autism. It does not claim that, and there is no “proof”. Encephalopathy is not a code word for autism either. Please be careful with the misinformation you spread.

  3. Randall Zamenski   June 1, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I want laws passed to protect people especially children from ever having to get vaccinations. I also want extreme mandatory research performed on any new /exsisting vaccinations. I also want any laws regarding government mandates forcing people to get vaccinated eliminated now and in the future. I do not want the government making any decissions concerning vaccinations period.

    • TeeJae   June 2, 2017 at 7:41 am

      Great! Now, what are you going to do about it? Might I suggest starting by writing your Congresspeople. Then perhaps urge everyone you know to do the same. And educate them by sharing this website’s articles on social media. Then ask yourself what else you can do. Imagine how much headway we’d make if we all did this. 🙂

  4. Stephanie Seifert   June 1, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    Tips for choosing a pediatrician/doctor:
    1. Interview them first-ask them questions that will help you decide if their services/attitude are acceptable, if you are going to pay someone (either out of pocket or thru insurance) they need to show you respect.
    2. Observe their appearance- if they don’t look healthy, don’t hire them. Why would you pay a sick person to tell you how to be healthy?
    3. Stop being a wimp!! Doctors are never in charge of YOUR body. Once you make your stand on vaccines make it clear it’s not a discussion, unless you decide it is.
    4. Decide if you will utilize medicine or become dependent on it. Choosing vaccines out of fear is dependency, and also leads to a type of medical bondage, you can’t buy health.
    5. Don’t follow the crowd, always ask questions and make your own choices.

  5. Paul Kramer   June 1, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    I want the personal financial guantee from the physician whom advocates vaccines. Doctor, put YOUR money where your mouth is, just sayin’!!!

  6. Dennis Gallagher   June 1, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    It goes further than the children. For those without children for what ever reason doctors, big pharma and the government are pulling the crap on us every time we go in for a yearly check up. Just tell them no you don’t want a flu shot, Prevnar 13 or a shingles vaccine you become an instant idiot. I had to get nasty and back him down by asking if he received any compensation, gifts or incentives from big pharma. He declined to answer on the grounds he is not required to answer such questions and it wasn’t my place to ask them. I no longer go there.

    • TeeJae   June 2, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Another option is to ask yourself if you really even need a yearly checkup. Those regular checkups were designed just to get more people in the doors to push more drugs, vaccines and unnecessary medical procedures on them. So, if you’re generally healthy and rarely get sick, what’s the point?

      • Dennis Gallagher   June 3, 2017 at 2:14 pm

        Tee Jae I agree with you 110% but I am some what locked in as I need to renew my blood pressure rx which I have tried to eliminate without success.

        • TeeJae   June 16, 2017 at 6:33 am

          No one is ever “locked in.” Try viewing it from a different perspective. Have you looked into natural remedies like herbs, teas, supplements, foods, exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, etc? There’s a wealth of information on the Internet. But whatever you do, DON’T ask your doctor! 😉

  7. Alexis Keiser   June 1, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Reading this strengthens my view that the best thing to do is to get out of the system entirely and not use allopathic practitioners at all. The piece does not mention the common and evil practice of using CPS (Child “Protective” Services) as the enforcement arm of the vaccine state. Parents, especially the poor, are told that CPS will be called if they do not vaccinate. CPS has been known to take children at gun point (police accompany the CPS workers). This is gaining increasing attention and the website Medical Kidnap. com is a good source of information about families who try to exercise their free choice over medical care for their children. I am encouraged by the fact that when vaccine hesitant people are greeted with measures to “reeducate” them they typically become more firm in their unwillingness to follow the CDC schedule.

  8. Verlene Dawson   June 1, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Go to YouTube.com and search for Barbara Loe Fisher’s video about the 21st Century Cures act that is now law. Safely testing and informed consent are history. Testing is now done on patients and can be without their consent!

  9. Melissa   June 1, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    We now have the sickest, most cognitively compromised, and most drug-dependent generation of children in human history. People don’t even really know what healthy kids look like anymore because so few communities/children are really unvaccinated or are isolated, such as the Amish and children of educated/organic/holistic parents who are scattered across the globe. When will we realize that corporate profits exposing all of us to poisons in every venue – water, air, “medicine”, food – all combine in synergistic fashion to make us and our children sick, sterile, stupid, and “compliant”, to use their own word? It is madness. I think the only answer is to create our own self-sufficient communities and make government authorities and corporations irrelevant.

    • Luke B   June 2, 2017 at 7:35 am

      Melissa, I’m not really sure what you are trying to say? You know that people groups like the Amish have a very high and unique disease profile specifically due to their isolation. Are you implying that this is desirable? I disagree with all your claims. Where are you getting the idea that the current generations are the “sickest, most cognitively compromised and drug dependent in human history”? Did you just make that up? Thanks!

      • Rebeccah Brinton   June 25, 2017 at 7:00 pm

        You really think Americans are healthy? Thriving? Robust? Open your eyes.

      • TeeJae   July 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

        It appears you have a lot more research to do.

    • George Walker   June 10, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      Melissa, Well articulated! I agree wholeheartedly. When people realise what this is doing to the future of western society, it may be too late.
      With half the children having autism by 2030 of which 80% will be boys, the diminishing workforce will be impacted by parents having to leave work to care for their autistic children.

  10. Christine   June 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    What am I able to do about the new school requirements that say you have to immediately catch up? How do you object to some in PA? What paperwork do I need?


    • A M   June 2, 2017 at 6:25 am


      See the Action Alert tab.
      PA school regulations changed, but exemptions
      are still available.

    • melody   June 2, 2017 at 10:58 am

      Please do not let them talk you into the “catch up schedule” which is by far worse than just having gotten the vaccinations on time. In a catch up there are many vaccines done over the course of WEEKS rather than years and it is very hard on a child’s immune system. We think it is the reason that after about 2 years our child was found to have Type 1 diabetes. Of course we have no proof but often when the body is fighting off many toxins it can end up turning upon it’s own organs, in this case the pancreas. The worst culprit in the immunizations for harm to the pancreas is the Pertussis vaccine. Now they have pertussis combined into the DTAP so no longer can one get just a “tetanus” shot but it is in combination. We no longer get any vaccinations.

  11. JCLincoln   June 2, 2017 at 2:06 am

    Invading the bodies of human beings with poisons is barbaric. May all these doctors and proponents of invasion suffer the same fate of their own actions.

  12. marlene   June 2, 2017 at 5:57 am

    I’m a senior citizen who has NEVER received a flu shot in her life and I have NEVER had the flu.

    • marlene   June 2, 2017 at 6:05 am

      My mother, on the other hand, started taking the flu vaccine every year in her senior adult life and contracted the flu every year since, shortly after receiving the vaccine, for the rest of her life.

    • Patricia Peloquin   June 5, 2017 at 1:33 pm


    • Dwayne Burch   June 25, 2017 at 9:07 am

      Only had the flu once, right after I got a flu shot. Never had another shot and never had the flu again. I’m 71.

      • Ricky R McMillan   July 2, 2017 at 11:58 am

        Its funny that you say this. Because I’m the same way. I was forced to take it for work. And every year I would test positive for the flu. Quit taking it 17 yrs ago! And I haven’t been sick with the flu since then.

  13. RICHARD L. BRANDON, MD   June 2, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Dr. Lander suggests insurance companies should charge higher premiums for those deciding against vaccines. In reality, insurers should charge much less, since they will save millions of dollars by not paying for those injured by the vaccines.

  14. Patricia Peloquin   June 5, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Luke B: Many anti-vax doctors have been found dead in the last couple of years. I believe something sinister is going on here–some dead after health officials swat teams invaded their offices.

    In Italy courts have ruled on the sides of lawsuits of those injured by MMP vaccines and, after seeing the scientific evidence, ruled that this vaccine causes autism. Not a word about this in the U.S. There have been whistleblowers from the CDC confirming there is a link that SHOULD BE STUDIED. The U.S. vaccine court has paid out BILLIONS to those injured or killed by vaccines.

    Austism is at epidemic proportions. Either mercury or aluminum are in vaccines–both of which are poisonous. As someone on this site mentioned that the back of the flu safety circular lists autism as one of the possible side effects.

  15. Kathryn lodico   June 9, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    The Michigan numbers are faulty. We went from having to turn in an exemption form every year to only kindergarten and seventh grade.

  16. Laura P.   October 23, 2019 at 11:22 am

    I’m just now seeing this because NVIC posted it on their Facebook page yesterday.

    Years ago, when I worked in sales, I went through training programs about common customer objections and how to refute them.

    As a parent, I’m also aware that it can be a bad idea to set a rule or boundary and then fulfill your children’s desire for an explanation. The word “why” is very often an invitation to argue over something that simply isn’t negotiable.

    In both cases – as well as in the physician’s exam room – every request of you to explain your decision is not a “conversation” but an agenda-driven game to convince you to change your mind.

    So I handle salespeople, children, and physicians the same way – by refusing to give an explanation. As the saying holds, “‘No’ does not mean ‘convince me.'” Sometimes it’s necessary to draw a firm line in the sand. I begin with repeated no-thank-yous and usually have to escalate to “I’ve made my decision. The issue is not up for discussion.”


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