Communicating with Patients

A key barrier to vaccine acceptance is a lack of knowledge about the benefits and safety of vaccination. For pregnant, adolescent, and adult women, advice and information from a trusted health care provider plays an important role in the decision to get vaccinated. Studies consistently show that provider recommendation and offer is the strongest predictor of immunization. The entire office staff should be involved in reinforcing the positive message that vaccines are safe and effective.

During the health care visit, a successful discussion about vaccines involves a two-way conversation, with both parties sharing information and asking questions, which encourages an open, honest and productive dialogue. Some patients might have received misinformation about immunizations and might not want to have a recommended vaccine. Parents and legal guardians might not want a minor in their care to receive vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ACOG have resources to assist healthcare workers in their discussions with patients about the benefits of vaccinations. Listening to a patients concern, addressing the concerns directly, and providing evidence-based resources will help the patient make an informed decision.

CDC, ACOG, and other organizations have resources to help healthcare workers address patient concerns regarding vaccines:

The choice for immunization rests with the patient. Provide patient education for those patients who refuse immunizations. Always properly document when a patient (or her parent or guardian) refuses recommended immunizations and be sure to offer it again at the next visit. 

When talking with patients, it is important to emphasize the benefits of vaccination and also explain that vaccines may vary in their efficacy. It is honest and important to say that not vaccinating a patients puts them at risk of disease. Never state that vaccines are risk-free and always discuss the known adverse effects. It is important to use Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) to support this discussion. 

Adults: Do You Know What Vaccines You Need?

CDC has a new video featuring real-life parents learning about the vaccines they and other adults need to protect their health. This video (2 versions available) or one of the 15-second teasers can be shared online, through social media, or in waiting rooms. Visit CDC’s adult immunization patient education webpage for details and to view/download. (Contact if you need assistance or require a broadcast quality file.)

With busy jobs and four active kids, Mary Beth and Barckley Toole don’t have time to get sick. A call from the doctor’s office reminded Mary Beth that they need vaccines to help stay healthy – just like their kids do. Follow along as she and Barckley find out what vaccines are recommended for adults.


Review the Diseases and Vaccines Section for more information on specific vaccines to discuss with your pateints.

Share the Patient side of with your patients for them to learn more on their own.

Updated 8/23/18

This website is supported by an independent educational grant from Merck and an educational grant from Sanofi Pasteur U.S. 
ACOG does not allow companies to influence its programs, publications, or advocacy positions.