National vaccine coverage has greatly improved over the last 50 years. The percentage of children born in 2017 who have not received any vaccinations stands at just 0.9%, while the 2019-2020 flu season saw the highest flu vaccine coverage ever recorded.
Despite higher vaccination coverage, the large number of people who still choose not to vaccinate their families and themselves leads to ongoing outbreaks of deadly diseases. Measles, which was eradicated in the U.S. in 2002, saw over 1,282 cases in 2019 and mumps has been on the rise since 2006. By not getting vaccinated, your patients don’t only put themselves at risk — they also endanger the entire community.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has highlighted the importance of vaccination. Patient acceptance of a newly developed COVID-19 vaccine is key to ending the pandemic. Only then can your practice refocus on promoting all the recommended immunization programs that will save even more lives. Read on to understand the reasons behind the lack of vaccine trust so you can implement strategies that will improve vaccination rates across the board at your practice.
What Causes Mistrust in Vaccines?
Your patients may not feel confident about getting themselves or their children vaccinated for a number of reasons. By understanding these concerns, you can shape the strategies you use to improve your vaccination rates.
Concerns about Vaccine Development
Patients may not trust the processes behind vaccine development and manufacturing. They may have misconceptions about how vaccines work and how safe the ingredients are. This has led some patients to believe that a vaccine can give them the disease it’s meant to prevent or even give them another medical disorder, such as autism. This concern has discouraged some parents from getting their children vaccinated against serious diseases.
Mistrust in the government and pharmaceutical companies has also made some patients wary about vaccines that are authorized and recommended for use. As a result, they may believe that vaccines are ineffective and unnecessary or that the risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Past Experience with the Health Systems
If a patient has had an unpleasant experience with a previous health care provider, they may be wary of your medical recommendations. Similarly, if a patient has received poor or painful medical treatment in the past, they may be reluctant to receive a vaccine or get their children vaccinated.
Cultural and Social Factors
Some patients may not want to receive a vaccine for religious reasons or for personal reasons, however state laws vary on vaccine exemption. Where pediatric vaccines are concerned, parents may need to get a signature from a local health department official or fill out an annual exemption form if they do not want their children to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated children may not be allowed to attend school during disease outbreaks.
Socio-demographics can also play a large part in low vaccination rates. The proportion of children who have not received any vaccines is higher among uninsured (4.1%) and Medicaid-insured children (1.3%) than children with private insurance (0.8%). While this could demonstrate a lack of awareness about the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) which would serve these children, lower family income has also been linked to lower vaccine trust.
Best Practices You Can Use to Improve Vaccine Trust
While some patients may not have much confidence in vaccines, they may just need more information about the vaccination process and its benefits. These strategies can educate your patients on the benefits and importance of vaccines to encourage them to get their COVID-19 vaccines and follow other immunization programs.
Make Sure Everyone at Your Practice is a Positive Example
For your patients to feel more confident about getting vaccinated, your practice needs to show there’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s no better way to prove to someone that a vaccine is safe than by getting it yourself!
Make sure every member of your staff has been vaccinated against COVID-19 and is up-to-date on all their other vaccinations. No matter whether a colleague is working directly with patients or keeping your practice clean, they should be vaccinated. You can even share the fact that all your staff members are fully vaccinated with your patients, both with signs around the practice and under your logo in all your patient correspondence.
If your practice members are interested, they can also serve as vaccine champions. Empower these team members to share their experiences of getting themselves or their children vaccinated. You can highlight these stories in your practice newsletter or on social media with photos.
Provide Updates and Information about Vaccines
Helping patients understand the importance of immunization programs and the vaccines they need can help inspire trust in the process. If your patients don’t have to search for the right information themselves, you make it even easier for them to educate themselves.
Supply your patients with clear information about immunization program schedules, the benefits of vaccines, and everything they can expect from the vaccination experience. You should also share information about any vaccine support your patients are entitled to, such as the VFC program. You can provide all this information through your practice blog or put together information kits for your patients.
On top of this, you should provide regular updates on vaccines, including any new developments and upcoming vaccine requirements. Staff members should also be trained on answering questions and sharing the benefits of vaccines with patients at the practice.
Spread the Message in the Community
If your practice is located in an area with low vaccine coverage, take the vaccine information to the community. Try hosting vaccine Q&A events where patients can openly share their thoughts and ask questions.
By listening to common concerns, you can understand why your patients are reluctant to get vaccinated and address those issues or myths. You can explain how vaccines are developed, monitored, and stored for safety. You can also share your own personal story about getting vaccinated to ensure as much positive messaging around vaccines as possible. This will help educate more people at the same time and help your patients feel confident about getting vaccinated.
Every vaccine administered at your health practice is another step toward higher vaccination coverage. Take the opportunity to show off these victories to your patients and encourage more people to get vaccinated.
Share the number of vaccines you’ve given and scheduled at your practice in your newsletters and on social media. With the permission of your patients, you can also start a wall of vaccine champions. If you need to garner even more excitement around vaccination, create some initiatives. Have pins or stickers made for the different vaccines. Your staff can proudly wear them on their uniforms and your patients can collect them. This is a fun way to get children interested in getting vaccines and removing the fear from the experience.
Greater vaccine trust will allow your practice to vaccinate more people, which will help reduce the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during this pandemic and beyond. To learn how you can improve vaccination coverage among children, read our blog post on the Vaccines for Children program (VFC).