The Role of the Pharmacist in Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy

Yvette C. Terrie, BS Pharm, RPh


US Pharmacist. 2021;46(4):28-31. 

In This Article

Defining and Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

Various myths, misconceptions, and fears of adverse effects are often barriers to obtaining vaccines.[16] Vaccine hesitancy is defined as the reluctance or refusal to obtain a vaccination despite its availability.[17,18] The reasons individuals decide not to vaccinate can be complex and multifactorial, but lack of confidence in vaccine safety, driven by apprehensions about adverse events, has been recognized as one of the main factors.[17,18] Hesitancy to vaccinate has been connected to some vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in the past 2 decades, such as the resurgence of measles in various parts of the U.S., with 16 measles outbreaks occurring in 2011.[19,20] In addition, a report released in 2016 stated that the number of mumps cases had reached a 10-year high in the U.S. and was especially common on college campuses.[21]

Healthcare workers, especially those in primary care, remain significant influencers on vaccine decisions, and many patients consider vaccination after a recommendation from a healthcare provider. Therefore, it is imperative that healthcare providers, including pharmacists, are up-to-date on the clinical data on currently recommended vaccines.[22]

Vaccine research indicates that vaccine hesitancy falls into three major categories: 1) lack of confidence (in effectiveness, safety, the system, or policy makers), 2) complacency (perceived low risk of acquiring vaccine-preventable diseases), and 3) lack of convenience (in the availability, accessibility, and appeal of immunization services, including time, place, language, and cultural contexts).[23] According to the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), only 25% of adults are up-to-date on routinely recommended adult vaccines, leaving many adults at risk for illnesses, hospitalizations, disability, and deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.[24] The IAC also indicates that low rates of vaccinations among adults may be due to lack of awareness of the vaccines recommended for them and, in some cases, absence of a provider recommendation or offer for vaccination.[24]

According to the American Pharmacists Association, there are two models that influence vaccine hesitancy.[14] They are referred to as the 3Cs Model and the 5As Model (Table 2 and Table 3).[14,25,26]