Calgary Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic aims to convince parents to get kids vaccinated
A Calgary clinic is counselling parents who may have concerns about getting their children vaccinated — and doctors say their work has been made more challenging due to the anti-vaccine movement.
The Vaccine Hesitancy Clinic was formalized two years ago at the Alberta Children’s Hospital through Alberta Health Services to give family doctors a place they could refer concerned parents.
“I would say vaccine hesitancy has been on the rise in our population,” said Dr. Cora Constantinescu, an infectious disease expert and pediatrician who is one of two doctors working at the clinic.
She said they to listen to parents’ concerns, build up trust and correct misinformation.
“I believe when we talk about changing behaviour in vaccine hesitant parents, it’s not as easy as correcting misinformation,” Constantinescu said. “There’s an emotional gap and trust gap that we as physicians need to bridge in order to elicit this behavioural change.”
The goal of the clinic is to increase vaccination rates and provide a place where people can be heard and supported.
“At the heart of any of our referrals there is one or two parents that are grappling with their own fears and anxiety, and their own sense of guilt, and are trying to make the best decisions they can to protect a child,” Constantinescu said.
She said adding to vaccine hesitancy is the anti-vaccine movement, which she described as an organized and deliberate movement that uses sophisticated techniques, including fake experts.
“The anti-vaccine movement has a far reach,” Constantinescu said. “They can access people in a very personal fashion and people tend to trust their social network, so I think there’s a lot of harm coming from the social networks.”
But she noted that health care providers remain a huge influence, and the top reason why parents change their vaccination behavior is by talking to physicians.
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