How To Talk To Patients About Getting Vaccinated
1. Lead with listening.
Do not make assumptions about whether your patients will choose to get vaccinated or the reasons for their decisions. Instead, begin with an open-ended question, such as “What are your thoughts on getting a COVID-19 vaccination today?”
Actively listen and seek to understand the patient’s point of view.
Recognize that these conversations can take time and may continue over the course of multiple encounters.
2. Use patient-centered communication techniques.
Use open-ended questions to promote dialogue. Ask about readiness to vaccinate and what questions or concerns they may have.
Paraphrase any information shared to show that you have heard and understood it.
Praise measures already taken to protect themselves or their children from COVID-19, like mask wearing and spatial distancing. Then frame vaccination as a safe and effective way to help protect them from getting COVID-19.
Ask for permission to share more information on COVID-19 vaccines. This will foster openness and connection.
3. Respond to questions and concerns with empathy.
Respond to questions and concerns in a non-judgmental, respectful, and empathic way.
Provide accurate answers using clear, simple language. Explore some of the questions patients ask most often about vaccines and use tips for answering their questions.
Some concerns may stem from mistrust in the medical establishment or the government as result of collective or individual mistreatment and traumas. Acknowledging past traumas may promote patients’ trust in you and your message.
Acknowledge uncertainty about what we don’t yet know about COVID-19 vaccines. This can help build trust.
4. Give your strong recommendation.
Let your patients know that you recommend COVID-19 vaccination for them. Your strong recommendation is critical for vaccine acceptance.
Tailor your recommendation to include any relevant reasons why COVID-19 vaccination might be particularly important for that specific patient.
Talk about your personal decision and experience in getting a COVID-19 vaccine and your experience treating COVID-19 patients.
Share the benefits of getting vaccinated, including:
- Protecting themselves and others who may be more vulnerable
- Enabling them to get back to activities they have missed.
Explain what they can do when they’ve been fully vaccinated.
5. Wrap up the conversation.
Encourage patients or parents to take at least one action, such as:
- Scheduling a vaccination appointment with your office, pharmacy, or another vaccination site
- Reading any handouts that you provide to them.
If they decline vaccination, acknowledge that this is their decision, and keep the door open to revisiting the topic during future visits.
Telling Patients What To Expect
mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that causes COVID-19 that gives our cells instructions for how to make a harmless protein that is unique to the virus. After our cells make copies of the protein, they destroy the genetic material from the vaccine. Our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
Protein Subunit Vaccines
Protein subunit vaccines include harmless pieces (proteins) of the virus that causes COVID-19 instead of the entire germ. Once vaccinated, our bodies recognize that the protein should not be there and build T-lymphocytes and antibodies that will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we are infected in the future.
Vector vaccines contain a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the shell of the modified virus, there is material from the virus that causes COVID-19. This is called a “viral vector.” Once the viral vector is inside our cells, the genetic material gives cells instructions to make a protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. Using these instructions, our cells make copies of the protein. This prompts our bodies to build T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that virus if we are infected in the future.