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Navigating the antivax movement

Contemporary Pediatrics asked pediatric infectious diseases experts how community pediatricians can talk with families who are firmly against vaccinating their children or hesitant to do so. Here’s what they said.

Pediatricians are wrestling with how they should deal with a growing antivaccination movement-one that’s taking a heavy toll on population health.1

Take measles, for example. “The resurgence in measles cases is all the more frustrating since the disease is entirely preventable through vaccination,” according to the perspective “Measles in 2019-Going backward” by Catherine I. Paules, MD, and colleagues, published April 17, 2019, at NEJM.org.1 “The growing antivaccination movement, based heavily on philosophical objections to vaccinations, poses a threat to public health,” Paules writes. “Vaccine hesitancy has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top 10 threats to global health and is a serious hurdle to the global elimination and eradication of measles.”

So, how does a pediatrician charged with doing no harm help, care for, and come to terms with families who are firmly against vaccinating their children or hesitant to do so? We asked several pediatric infectious disease control experts for their advice.

Change the equation: The risk of vaccines is greater than the risk of disease

Craft the message: Vaccines are routine, safe, preventive medicine

Speak from the heart about vaccines

Know your audience, acknowledge specific concerns

The vaccine discussion: A frustrating but necessary investment in time


1. Paules CI, Marston HD, Fauci AS. Measles in 2019-going backward. N Engl J Med. 2019;380(23):2185-2187. Available at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1905099. Accessed June 21, 2019.