Treatment and Vaccine Hesitancy - How to Effectively Talk with Patients

Treatment and Vaccine Hesitancy - How to Effectively Talk with Patients

December 14, 2021

Bruce Berger, Ph.D. - Berger Consulting LLC and Professor Emeritus, Auburn University - and Col. John D. Grabenstein, R.Ph., Ph.D. - Vaccine Dynamics SP - talk with us about treatment hesitancy, its root causes, and how health professionals can engage patients in treatment decisions more effectively.

Key Lessons:

  • Treatment and vaccine hesitancy is often grounded in inadequate information, changing information (leading to doubt), personal beliefs,  misinformation, distrust (of the health care professional's motivations), and (sometimes) apathy. 
  • Actively soliciting and listening to a patient's concerns is the key to understanding the sources of doubt and hesitancy.
  • Confrontation and dismissing a patient's understanding will cause "face loss" and lead to more resistance, not less.
  • Monologues about "the facts" are not helpful. It is important to ask permission and then gently offer new information for the patient to consider.
  • The patient is always driving the bus and all treatment decisions rest with them. The goal should be to become a trusted advisor who's always on the patient's side.
  • It may take some patients several months (or even years) to arrive at a decision to start a new treatment or receive a vaccine.
  • Our words can alienate a patient and sever a relationship. This is perhaps the worst possible outcome because it prevents us from having a positive influence in the future.

Want to learn more about motivational interviewing and vaccinations?  Be sure to check out these resources:

 Immunization Action Coalition (

 ComMIt - Comprehensive Motivational Interviewing (MI) Training

 eLearning MI Training for Health Professionals - Purdue University

 Berger B.  Using Care and Compassion to Respond to Vaccine Hesitancy.

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