As a pediatrician, I trust the system that assures the efficacy and safety of the vaccines I offer families. It's important that the families be comforted by sharing my trust. How do I do that? No two families are the identical, but the process I use is the same: candid education that encourages dialogue.
First, I set the frame of reference by reminding parents (and children old enough to understand) that "today is the time for your child to receive the vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella", for example. I explain what these diseases are, in as much or little detail as seems reasonable for this family, thus defining the benefits of the vaccine and also the possible side-effects or adverse reactions. Then I pause for questions and answer each with candor and respect. No question is off limits. If I am not sure of the answer or the answer is unknown, I say so and express willingness to seek more information. But since pediatricians are expected to be knowledgeable about immunization, the answers to most questions come quickly.
I remind families that my own children and grandchildren received these vaccines because it is one of the best ways to protect their health.
For the few families whose fears and/or misinformation make them resist immunization, time permitting, I work to understand their concerns. When I am able to do so with candor, respect and humility, most times we share the success of full, on-time, protective immunization because of the trust we have generated together. And the stage is set for the additional vaccines necessary on another visit. For the even fewer families who still resist immunization, an ethical approach is difficult and beyond the scope of this brief comment.