Children's Minnesota in the News

Empathy and active listening – strategies for vaccine discussions

With measles outbreaks continuing across the country and the number of unvaccinated children on the rise, doctors are looking at the best approaches to discussing the importance of vaccines with families.

Children’s Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health were at the forefront of vaccination efforts during the 2017 measles outbreak in Minneapolis. In “Measles outbreak: How doctors can change anti-vaccine minds,” NBC featured lessons doctors learned from that experience. One effective approach used by Children’s specialists is motivational interviewing, in which a skilled facilitator uses empathy and active listening to better understand and address parent’s concerns.

Here are six things to keep in mind about measles and vaccinations:

  1. Measles is a serious, very contagious and potentially fatal infectious disease. It has no treatment.  If not vaccinated, 9 out of 10 people exposed to the virus will get measles. Since 1 in 1000 children with measles can develop brain infection, blindness, deafness or permanent neurological damage, the safest thing to do is vaccinate against measles.
  2. Measles vaccine comes combined with mumps and rubella known as the MMR vaccine, and is 97% effective in preventing measles. A dose is given at 1 year then again at age 4-5 years. It is a very safe vaccine with a rare possibility (1 in 1 million doses) of a severe allergic side effect or encephalitis.
  3. With more than two million children in over a dozen international studies, it has been proven that MMR vaccine does not cause autism.
  4. Getting vaccines on schedule is what Children’s Minnesota recommends. There is a risk of a child being exposed and getting a disease if vaccines are spread out or delayed until they are older. A child’s immune system is more than strong enough to handle the vaccines on the immunization schedule.
  5. Measles can impact a child’s immune system. The virus can wipe out the immune memory of prior infections and vaccines and make the child vulnerable to infections for up to 5 years after contracting the disease.
  6. We all do our part in society to keep each other safe like driving the speed limit, following traffic lights and not smoking indoors. Likewise, when children are vaccinated we protect those who cannot get the MMR like babies under a year old, people with immunodeficiencies and pregnant women who can have terrible outcomes if they contract measles while pregnant. The key is to vaccinate to build community immunity.
Dina Elrashidy