Vaccine hesitancy is now recognized as a threat to global health. Its causes are complex, and it is defined by a resistance to or questioning of immunization. It is important to address vaccine hesitancy directly before people who are hesitant become vaccine refusers or anti-vaccine. Fortunately, with evidence-based information delivered with a compassionate communication style many of those who are hesitant to vaccinate can be persuaded to ultimately vaccinate. This paper aims to explain successful communication strategies used to address vaccine hesitancy in healthcare settings and on social media. Vaccine hesitant parents frequently list their child’s healthcare provider as a trusted source of information on vaccine issues. Research has shown that using presumptive language for vaccine introduction, followed by a compassionate and direct response to any concerns is an effective form of communication with vaccine hesitant parents. This paper teaches the C.A.S.E. Model as a way to formulate that communication.

Although many people trust their providers, we cannot ignore the influence of the Internet, specifically social media, as a source of vaccine information for patients and parents. Although there is much pro-vaccine messaging on the Internet, the anti-vaccine messaging is frequently simpler, more emotionally appealing, and easily sharable. Since vaccine hesitant people tend to be silent observers of the vaccine debate online, it is important for pro-vaccine sources to communicate effectively in this arena. We describe our experience and lessons learned with this form of communication through the pro-immunization parent advocacy group, Immunize Texas.

Key Take Away Points

  • Vaccine hesitancy, which can lead to vaccine refusal, is a growing threat to health both globally and locally in Texas.
  • It is important for pro-vaccine advocates and healthcare providers to learn communication skills which most effectively persuade vaccine hesitant individuals to vaccinate.
  • When introducing the topic of vaccination, research has shown use of presumptive language by healthcare providers is an effective communication tool to promote vaccine acceptance.
  • If parents express vaccine concerns, the C.A.S.E. (Corroborate, About me, Science, Explain) Model is a valuable communication technique healthcare providers can use to quickly address those concerns.
  • Communication of pro-vaccine messages on social media is important because many people use this as a source of information on immunization.
  • Unfortunately, anti-vaccine messaging can be persuasive. To combat this, pro-vaccine groups need to use a collaborative tone and generate content which appeals to everyday people.

Author Biography

Lindy McGee, MD is a general pediatrician who practices in Pasadena, TX. She is faculty at Baylor College of Medicine and spends her clinical time teaching residents at a Harris Health clinic in an underserved area. Dr. McGee is also a member of the Academic General Pediatrics department at Texas Children’s Hospital, where her research focuses on increasing rates of HPV vaccination in the Harris Health system. Through her work with the nonprofit, The Immunization Partnership, she has become a strong advocate for vaccination, doing everything from hosting parent groups to testifying at the state legislature. Lindy is the mother of two children, ages 15 and 13. Jinny Suh, J.D. is the Founder and Leader of Immunize Texas. She has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Southern California, an M.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from Columbia University. Jinny studied evolutionary herpetology while in graduate school and after law school, practiced biopharmaceutical patent law. As part of Immunize Texas, Jinny organizes community advocates from all parts of Texas and is regularly involved with supporting pro-vaccine legislation at the Texas State Capitol. She is the mother of two children, ages 3 and 7.


The authors would like to thank The Immunization Partnership and Immunize Texas for their work and support in countering vaccine hesitancy.