Best Practice Guidance: How to Respond to Vocal Vaccine Deniers in Public

Edgar Marcuse, MD, MPH, FPIDS, FAAP

The World Health Organization (WHO) has prepared a useful, comprehensive guide:  How to Respond to Vaccine Deniers in Public. It’s 44 easy-to-read pages, divided into 11 brief chapters is an excellent primer should you consider taking on this task.

The authors caution us not to engage with these folks in public forums unless you have prepared and have had media training. But sometimes one has to or is caught by surprise.

Note: The guidance pertains to public encounters, not 1:1 clinician:parent/patient discussions. Nonetheless I think the guidance may be of interest to any who struggle with these challenging communications.

The authors offer 2 rules and a goal statement:

Rule 1: The general public is your audience, not the vaccine denier.
Rule 2: Your aim is to unmask the techniques the vaccine denier is using and correct the content.

Your goal: Make the audience more resilient against antivaccine statements and stories; support the vaccine hesitaters in their vaccine-acceptance decisions.

If feasible I’d suggest a comfortable chair, a cup or glass of your favorite beverage before delving into this.

Vaccine Safety References

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Vaccine Education Center (VEC) recently added a list of vaccine safety references with brief overviews of each study’s findings to its website. The new webpage, easily found at, is the result of a collaboration between Dr. Stanley Plotkin, Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, and Heather Bodenstab to offer a repository of vaccine safety references for those who may be asked to address these issues either with their patients or more formally, in court. The page is divided into topics and includes links to related pages on the VEC website. In addition, the references, with summaries, are also listed on the appropriate pages of the VEC website.