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Tips for Tough Conversations with Family and Friends Hesitant to Get Vaccinated

As of April 19th, all 50 states and the District of Columbia expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 years of age and older. Now that eligibility has expanded, what does that mean for vaccine progress?

LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

According to CDC data, as of April 30th, 235 million vaccine doses have been administered, which equates to about 43 percent of the U.S. population having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 29 percent of the U.S. being fully vaccinated.

Due to expanded vaccine eligibility, we should soon be at a point where anyone who wants to get the vaccine can do so. However, surveys show that almost 20 percent of Americans are still taking a “wait and see” approach to vaccination. There’s a good chance you have a family member or close friend who falls into this group.

“Everyone in the LIUNA family can do their part by getting vaccinated when it’s their turn,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. “Sharing the news that you got vaccinated can also help show family members, friends and coworkers who haven’t been vaccinated yet that it’s safe to do so.”

If you want to encourage them to get vaccinated, what’s the best way to have that conversation? First, remember that getting vaccinated is a personal decision and you may not be able to change someone else’s mind. It may take more than one attempt, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. Here are some pointers for having an effective conversation with family, friends and co-workers.

Avoid judgment and listen first. Start by asking why the person is hesitant and listen to identify the root of their concerns. There are a number of reasons why people are hesitant to get vaccinated. Some of these reasons may seem reasonable to you and others may not. Regardless of how you feel, judging, belittling or saying what they believe is ridiculous (even if you think so) will not make anyone change their mind or address their concerns. Start by acknowledging their concerns so they know they have been heard.

A LIUNA member gets vaccinated at a clinic hosted by the New York State Laborers’ Health & Safety Trust Fund

Ask open-ended questions and provide fact-based answers. By asking questions like “What do you think will happen if you get vaccinated?” you find out much more about what the person believes. For example, you may discover it’s simply a fear of the unknown. There has been a lot of information and misinformation shared about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations. The LHSFNA has several articles and graphics that address myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccines. You can use these resources to address worries head-on.

Ask follow-up questions and avoid making assumptions. Share fact-based information, such as the number of people who have already been safely vaccinated.

Share your own reason for getting vaccinated and personal experience. People are more likely to share information when it’s a two-way street. Share your own experience with getting vaccinated or the experience of a family member or friend you both know. Share your reasons for getting vaccinated, such as to protect family and friends, to be less anxious or to resume activities in public. By sharing your views, you may steer someone toward finding their “why” for getting vaccinated.

In all of these conversations, the goal is to empower people to make the decision to get vaccinated because they believe it’s the right thing to do and the best choice for them. Remember that we’re all in this together, and even if we don’t initially have the same viewpoint, we can still end up in the same place – vaccinated and getting back to normal.

Once you’ve made the decision to get vaccinated, it may take some time, patience and persistence to find an appointment. To make this process easier, pre-register for an appointment through your state or local health department or at a mass vaccination site. By doing so, you will be notified when it’s your turn to schedule an appointment.

[Emily Smith is the LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Manager.]

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