Physician viewpoint: Vaccine hesitant Americans need empathy as well as facts

Factual information, empathy and listening will help unvaccinated Americans get their COVID-19 shots, not patronizing lectures, two medical experts wrote June 9 in a USA Today opinion piece.

In their article, Nick Talley, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine at the Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina and editor-in-chief of the Medical Journal of Australia, and Jeremy Howard, a research scientist at the University of San Francisco, say that the medical community and media "haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory" when it comes to communicating to the public about COVID-19.

Dr. Talley and Mr. Howard said that unvaccinated people have valid concerns, and it is understandable why many Americans feel distrustful about the shots. They pointed to several announcements made by medical and government authorities that have since been retracted, such as COVID-19 not being airborne, the non-necessity of masks and only the elderly and immunocompromised being at risk for the disease.

"People need more information about vaccine safety. But too often, concerns about getting vaccinated are met with patronizing and paternalistic lectures that are short on empathy," they wrote. "We’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks listening."


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