Talking to your anti-vaxxer friends can be frustrating and divisive when you know getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. “But you can talk about this issue in a way that builds your relationship,” says Karen Ernst, director of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led nonprofit.
Kids With Measles Illustration
Credit: James Yang

Start by listening.

Let a friend air all her worries without jumping in to contradict her. “She needs to feel heard,” says Ernst. “If she says, ‘Here’s why I don’t get a flu shot’ and you respond, ‘But scientists have shown… ’ you’re just going to play whack-a-mole with her concerns.”

Think about the fear behind her fears.

“A lot of women are wary of vaccines after a traumatic birth experience, which can make them distrust doctors,” notes Ernst. A friend might be dealing with a health situation in her family or may have recently lost a loved one.

Share why vaccines matter to you.

Explain that you’re worried for your baby, who’s too young for all her shots, or for an immunecompromised friend undergoing chemo. “If we make it personal, it’s much easier to connect,” Ernst says.

Parents Magazine