The vaccination conversation: when families disagree

Treatments & procedures

The vaccination conversation: when families disagree

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of a child, disagreements can be a problem. Here’s some expert advice on starting the conversation.

Lisa Herron
July 2017

Vaccination uptake in Australia is high – just over 93% of 5-year-olds are fully covered. But that means 7 out of every 100 Australian children are not. If your partner or son/daughter is refusing to vaccinate your child or grandchild and you disagree, the experts advise not to argue with them but listen and take their concerns seriously.

Many people think vaccine refusal is due to parents not understanding the importance of vaccination and just giving them the facts will change their minds. But research suggests it won’t.

Associate Professor Julie Leask, visiting Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance, says just giving people facts won’t address the core reason they are anti-vaccination.

“And some research suggests more facts will entrench them more,” says Leask.

How to move forward

Instead she recommends acknowledging the person as a caring parent who wants the best for their child, not patronising or simplifying, noting the risks and uncertainty, and leading them to information that is balanced.

Researcher Dr Bronwyn Harman from Edith Cowan University has found that many parents who chose not to vaccinate their children hadn’t told their extended family and friends as they were tired of being questioned or criticised.

“The problem we have now is that the vaccination debate has become a debate about what is "good" parenting, rather than a health issue,” says Dr Harman.

She suggests asking your partner/son/daughter to talk to a trusted GP to keep the focus on the child’s health.

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