With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant of the virus, and now an even more contagious strain of that variant called “Delta Plus” popping up in various countries, you may start to have feelings of concern. And because unvaccinated individuals are at a higher risk of severe illness that requires hospitalization, you may feel even more strongly about encouraging your friends and family to get vaccinated. But it isn’t always the most delicate subject, as you may be well aware of by now.
However, many people still have concerns and doubts about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. As of right now, less than 45% of Texans are fully vaccinated, even though 83% of Texans are eligible for the vaccine. That is considering we would need a much larger percentage of the population fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity, although the exact percentage is still unknown.
With the vaccines not yet approved for children under the age of 12, and circumstances where adults and children may not qualify for other reasons, it is even more critical for those who can get the vaccine to do so in order to protect those who cannot.
That’s why it’s important to talk with vaccine-hesitant friends and family about the need for everyone to get vaccinated, if they’re eligible. But the way you go about it can make a big difference in helping them make the decision.
We understand how sensitive this subject can be, so we spoke with Rosemary Galdiano, a registered nurse and director of mobile health for Texas Health Resources, for her advice on ways to approach this in a thoughtful and respectful way.
Asks Questions, Then Listen
Galdiano says that listening is an important first step to understanding their concerns and doubts. Try to put your own perspective on hold and don’t “attack” with facts or use the word “fear.” Ask questions that help you understand the nature and the source of the person’s apprehension, whether they feel like the vaccines were developed too quickly to be safe, are worried about side effects from the vaccine, or they don’t have enough information.
“Give people an opportunity to ask questions and provide factual information in a thoughtful, respectful manner,” says Galdiano. “Asking open ended questions will allow the individual to share their concerns, doubts or other reasons for not being able to obtain a vaccine.”
That can sound like:
- Would you like information about coronavirus?
- Would you like information about the vaccine that is available?
- Do you have questions about how the vaccine reduces the risk of being infected?
- What would make you more comfortable with getting vaccinated?
Counter Misinformation — Respectfully
After asking questions, you may hear some reasonings that are backed by misinformation. While it may be a knee-jerk reaction to argue, shame or dismiss their concerns, doing so is counteractive.
Instead, try countering misinformation with specific facts or resources where they can learn more on their own if they’d like to, and watch your tone. Texas Health provides answers to a lot of questions here for people who may be vaccine hesitant or who may just need a little more information before making a decision.
“Reinforcing the facts about the coronavirus disease and COVID-19 vaccine in a respectful, non-judgmental manner may help to keep them engaged and open to the possibility of obtaining the vaccine, if not now then sometime in the future,” says Galdiano.
For example, if the person you’re speaking to says they’re hesitant to get vaccinated because they read that mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) can change a person’s DNA, calmly let them know that you do not think that is possible and follow up with “but let’s look that up together to make sure.”
Share Personal Testimony
It can also be helpful to share your own personal experience getting the vaccine. Be completely transparent with them, even if you did get some flu-like symptoms after one or both of the shots. Showing them that you got the vaccine and you’re happy and healthy today can be enough to push them towards getting the vaccine, according to a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
The survey found that 21% of adults who stated in January that they planned on waiting to receive the vaccine have since been vaccinated. Most of them said the decision to move forward with the vaccine came from having conversations with their friends, family, and doctors, as well as seeing those same people getting vaccinated without experiencing any serious side effects.
Don’t Stoop to Guilt-Tripping or Threats
In frustration, you may try guilt-tripping or threatening to not see family or friends if they don’t get vaccinated. Again, compassion, understanding, and validation of someone else’s feelings is always an easier way to have a conversation than by using shame.
Remember, the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice — you don’t have to understand it in order to respect it. In the same way, if you limit your in-person interactions with someone who hasn’t been vaccinated or don’t allow elderly family members or children for whom you’re responsible to interact with them, you deserve that same level of respect. It’s OK to put up healthy boundaries, especially when it comes to protecting yourself or your family, but do so in a calm, yet clear way.
That can sound like, “I respect your decision to not get vaccinated. I feel like I have answered your concerns in the best way I know how, and I also know you have the resources to understand more as well. But unfortunately if you continue to remain unvaccinated, I will have to limit my in-person time with you for my own safety and the safety of my family at home, so I hope you also respect that decision.”
Give Them Space and Respect Their Decision
If you still feel resistance from friends and family or if the conversation dissolves into tension, it’s perfectly OK to back away and give them space. Remind them that your concern is coming from a genuine place of love for them, and not contention.
Sometimes someone may just need some space and time to digest the discussion they had with you, even if you’re walking away feeling like nothing was truly accomplished. You never know what seeds you may have planted.
How you communicate with people matters, and it can make a difference. If you can help one person get vaccinated, we’re one step closer to containing the coronavirus and protecting others.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit TexasHealth.org/GetYourVaccine.