U of C vaccine hesitancy guide gives doctors facts for struggling patients

A guidebook by researchers from the University of Calgary will help family doctors who have patients with vaccine hesitancy.

Reluctance to immunize is more common in Alberta than the rest of Canada, poll says

A new guide has been created by researchers at the University of Calgary to help doctors deal with patients' concerns about vaccinations. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A guidebook by researchers from the University of Calgary will assist family doctors who have patients with vaccine hesitancy.

A poll released Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute suggests that vaccine hesitancy is more common in Alberta than in the rest of the country.

In fact, the survey found that one in five Albertans remain disinclined to get a shot — twice the national average. 

Dr. Myles Leslie, associate director of research at University of Calgary's School of Public Policy as well as one of the authors of the guide, says family doctors can lend a hand in this since they're the first line of contact.

"You already go to [doctors] to talk about stuff about your health. These are the trusted sources of information, probably not your average talking head," he told The Homestretch.

But in order to do this, the doctors need some help.

Leslie says the vaccine hesitancy guide started back in January — before some of the vaccines were even out.

"We started thinking, 'Well, there's definitely going to be people that think this is kind of a weird thing, that it's come really fast,'" he said.

From there, the team decided to work on ways to help with those fears.

Feedback from doctors

Leslie says they started by going into the field to ask family doctors, both from Alberta and across Canada, what they've been hearing about vaccine hesitancy.

He says the biggest thing they learned was there is a quality to the hesitancy.

"There were a lot of people that are just sort of sitting around thinking, 'Well, I'm not sure, I've got specific concerns,' and that's what we learned when we talked to the doctors."

But when patients asked their doctor these types of questions, there wasn't a pamphlet or fact sheet that could help guide the conversation.

"The person actually needed to have their specific kind of hesitancy dealt with as part of the conversation." 

Part of the problem also stemmed from the mixed messaging on vaccines, says the researcher.

"There's so much new information, so much new science, and it's all going at a fast clip," he said.

In order to help with that conversation, the researchers put out an online guide for doctors to read.

It lists everything from specific concerns, like fear of needles, and helps correct misinformation with facts.

Leslie and his co-author, Dr. Raad Fadaak, will lead a webinar on the discussion Thursday morning.

With files from The Homestretch


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