Talking to a vaccine-hesitant person? Do these 8 things

As the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S. and COVID-19 hospitalizations rise among unvaccinated Americans, healthcare communication professionals are still perfecting their efforts to address concerns among the vaccine-hesitant population.

Below are eight tips for having conversations with vaccine-hesitant people, as compiled in an Aug. 16 MIT Technology Review report.

  1. Make sure they're OK with having this conversation with you. Some people have their minds made up, so trying to change their stance could be a waste of your time.

  2. Avoid having this conversation publically on social media. If you see someone posting about their COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, confronting them on social media will likely be fruitless and can often antagonize other users. A private message or text is a better option.

  3. Abandon your biases. You'll have a more productive conversation if you don't make assumptions about someone's reasons for not getting vaccinated.

  4. Don't be disrespectful. Vaccine-hesitant Americans won't change their minds after patronizing lectures or beratement.

  5. See if you can eliminate an obstacle. You might be able to help address the problem keeping someone from getting vaccinated. For example, you could help an unvaccinated person get over their fear of needles, learn more about the testing COVID-19 vaccine went through or find transportation to a nearby vaccination site.

  6. Tailor your conversation to the person. Consider the specific concerns of the person with whom you're engaging, and try to address them in a way that feels relevant to them. Think about what might reassure you if you shared these worries.

  7. Don't just parrot the CDC — act like someone they can trust. Vaccine-hesitant Americans are more likely to be persuaded by people who shared similar concerns yet ended up vaccinated, rather than by people who were enthusiastic about getting their shot as soon as they were able.

  8. Have your sources ready to reference. Conversations with vaccine-hesitant Americans are more productive when facts are presented in a non-condescending manner.

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