Author(s): Christine Wilson Owens

Date Updated: July 14, 2016

Syringe for vaccination
Photo by F&Prtw (cc license)

Taking time to talk with immigrant and refugee patients about their reluctance to vaccinate will likely be more effective than written materials. There are several talking points that might be useful when encountering resistance to vaccination, including:

  • The importance of protecting family members since it is the young, pregnant women, and the elderly who are most vulnerable.  Dr. John Lynch of Harborview Medical Center (HMC) recently told the Community House Calls Program’s community advisory board that keeping younger people from getting ill will keep older people more healthy.  
  • Dr. Carey Jackson (HMC) suggests that the closest illness to the experience of the flu for many from sub-Saharan Africa is a bout of malaria with fevers, shaking chills, headaches, photophobia, nausea, myalgias, arthralgias and vomiting. Likening flu to an episode like this rather than a cold may get more people’s attention.
  • Patients may say “I got the shot and still got the flu” largely because they had some viral syndrome with fevers and don’t realize the flu is usually an order of magnitude worse.