Why vaccine campaigns need testimonials from patients who got COVID-19 after refusing shots

Patients who have contracted COVID-19 after refusing to get vaccinated against the disease are sharing their regrets on social media, as well as being featured in vaccination campaigns created by hospitals and health departments, The Washington Post reported Aug. 12.

U.S. vaccination rates have risen in the past weeks, likely because Americans are realizing the severity of the COVID-19 crisis as thousands of unvaccinated patients become hospitalized for the disease. Many unvaccinated people who became hospitalized for COVID-19 are sharing their stories so people who are hesitant or resistant about getting vaccinated better understand the consequences of their choice.

"This is at least a new approach that goes beyond the repeated instructions to vaccinate and fear appeals we see in the media," Dolores Albarracín, PhD, a professor who studies health-related behaviors at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told the newspaper.

Dr. Albarracín said that approach is most effective when the patient testimonials come across as sincere, rather than preachy. She also said they're particularly effective when the advocate and person who is receiving the message share similar demographics.

Many patients who are suffering from long-term COVID-19 effects took to social media to warn others of their own volition. Others have become a part of larger campaigns. 

For example, Springfield, Mo.-based CoxHealth asked people who expressed regret about not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 to share their stories, and the testimonials were shared on YouTube.

"It's not easy to say that we were maybe mistaken initially," Kaitlyn McConnell, the system's director of public relations, told The Washington Post. "It’s extremely brave."


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