Having a vaccine talk? Keep these 8 tips in mind

August 1, 2019
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM
Sarah J. Wooten, DVM

Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.

Your anti-vaxxer veterinary client might never change their minds, but you can try a few different approaches.

You're probably familiar with the increasing trend of veterinary clients coming in who are afraid that vaccines will hurt their pets.

Because many anti-vaxxer clients are driven by fear (and can't we all relate to some irrational fears?), it can be difficult or even impossible to convince them to vaccinate. However, some clients may change their minds about vaccines if you approach them in a consistent, empathetic way. If you run up against this, here are eight tips that have helped me.

1. Don't debate about core vaccines. They're required.

2. Don't assume that clients understand how vaccines work. (This resource from the CDC explains why there is no link between vaccines and autism.)

3. Draw parallels to human health where applicable-for example, the recent whooping cough and measles outbreaks due to the rise in people not vaccinating their children. Educate, don't scare.

4. Encourage dialogue with your client by asking about their concerns, using phrases like, “Tell me more about … ” or “Help me understand so I can best advise you.”

5. Examine your own bedside manner-do you come off as overbearing or rigid?

6. Going hardcore? Drawing a line in the sand? Practice what you preach by firing anti-vaxxer clients.

7. Don't take it personally. Even though it feels like a personal rejection of your role as wise counselor when clients refuse to follow your vaccine recommendations, it's really not about you.

8. Above all, remember that the client wants to be heard, wishes to be respected, seeks credible information, desires informed consent and wants to be involved in decisions about their pet's healthcare.

If you come to a client from a place of understanding and are willing to hear their concerns, you might be surprised at who will come around once they've had the chance to say their piece. And, if not … you can decide how to move forward.

Dr. Sarah Wooten graduated from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. A member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists, Dr. Wooten divides her professional time between small animal practice in Greeley, Colorado, public speaking on associate issues, leadership, and client communication, and writing. She enjoys camping with her family, skiing, SCUBA, and participating in triathlons.