- Expert Commentary
InFLUencer Dr. Cory Offers One Strategy to Address Vaccine Hesitancy
Dr. Matthew Cory is a Families Fighting Flu medical advisor and a practicing pediatrician in Lakeland, Florida. He received Board Certification by the American Board of Pediatrics, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
More than 15 years ago, I read Steven R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One habit in particular has stuck with me ever since – Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. As a pediatrician, I think of this often when I meet with parents who are hesitant or resistant to vaccinating their children against influenza.
The premise behind Habit #5 is to use empathetic listening to try and genuinely understand where someone is coming from. I invite parents and caregivers to share their perspective, fears, and influences, listening without judgement. Hearing their perspective creates a more open dialogue and helps me address their concerns in a way that resonates.
Flu vaccination is not required to enter school. The burden is on parents to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children. I believe that parents genuinely want to protect the health of their children, but I also understand other influences may stop them from accepting the vaccine. It could be an opinionated grandparent, a misconception they read, a clashing perspective with a spouse, or so many other things.
By giving parents the opportunity to speak and feel understood, I can determine the most strategic approach or messaging at that moment. After listening to parents and addressing their concerns, I’ll also share Families Fighting Flu as a trusted resource.
I’ve seen in my own practices that a parent may decline a flu vaccination at first pass, and then come back in after having the time and resources to change their mind.
At the end of the day, using Covey’s approach of seeking to understand others will help to deepen your relationships with the families you serve, and hopefully, help prevent flu in your community.
What strategies do you use with parents in your practice? We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.