6 gentle and respectful ways to help decrease vaccine hesitancy in a friend

It may take a few talks to encourage them, but every conversation is a step in the right direction toward vaccination and the world returning to normal.

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Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, whichever kind you choose, is of utmost importance if you want the world to return to normal at some point. The weight of the pandemic has crushed so many people with grief and hopelessness. However, the vaccines provide a light at the end of the tunnel.

Even so, not everyone has jumped at the chance to get a COVID-19 vaccine, citing multiple worries and some misinformation. When talking to others about why they should get vaccinated, you have to be delicate, as it’s a very emotionally and politically charged discussion. Society’s future lies in the hands of the multitude, so it’s best to talk to others about getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

If your friend needs some encouragement, you should talk to them from a place of empathy. Even if you experienced no hesitancy toward getting the vaccine yourself, you should still try to understand where they’re coming from.

1. Understand Where the Hesitancy Originates From

Many people find that their vaccine hesitancy is rooted in anxiety rather than concrete facts they have heard. It’s normal to be anxious about something seemingly new, so it could help your friend if you reassure them they shouldn’t be afraid of the shot.

The sooner your friend can recognize that their fear holds the reins, the sooner they can open up and consider receiving the vaccine. You may also find that their hesitation is rooted in past experiences, whether they or their relatives experienced them. Once you know why they’re hesitant, you can employ other methods to ease them into the idea of getting vaccinated.

2. Listen to Their Fears

Listening is key to understanding someone’s point of view. Likewise, it also helps others feel like they’ve been heard. Your friend may not have had anyone listen to them about their fears, or they may have been too afraid to express them for being viewed negatively. You can be the safe space that allows them to talk out their feelings while reassuring them that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

3. Dispel Any Myths

At this point in the pandemic, numerous rumors of the side effects have swirled around in everyone’s heads. You should step in to clear up any misinformation when you can. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a great resource answering many questions through plain explanations with no medical terms.

One of the most common assumptions is that the COVID-19 vaccine will alter your DNA. mRNA vaccines don’t interact with DNA at all. The mRNA vaccines send directions to the cell, but those directions never go inside the nucleus, which houses DNA.

Others may believe the vaccine affects their fertility. Certain minorities have faced forced sterilization before, so it’s understandable how this past experience can make someone feel hesitant. There’s currently no evidence that the vaccine can make a person infertile, which means it was likely just a rumor perpetuated for the purposes of fear-mongering.

Another huge concern is that the vaccine is equivalent to injecting microchips under a person’s skin. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a microchip. You can even tell your friend their cellphone collects more data on them than the vaccine can. They can also look up the ingredients of any of the COVID-19 vaccines or ask a trusted health care professional their opinion.

4. Offer Them Facts

Many people are hesitant to take the vaccine because of how quickly it was developed. In actuality, researchers and scientists have been working on this vaccine for decades. The rise of the bird flu, H5N1, in the early 2000s was also a type of coronavirus. The current COVID-19 vaccines came as a result of further developments against the coronavirus family.

The vaccine won’t fully prevent COVID-19, especially with the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant, but it can help protect you against severe infection. The vaccine can make many COVID-19 cases seem more like a common cold than a deadly threat. The vaccines have around 86% efficacy in preventing hospitalization.

5. Teach Them About Vaccine Effectiveness

It’s no secret that vaccine effectiveness has dropped against the most recent variant — but that doesn’t mean your friend should altogether drop the idea of getting the vaccine. If you’re vaccinated, you have a better chance of surviving and avoiding hospitalization with the shot than without it.

You can explain to them that viruses mutate over time, and the vaccinations help prevent the mutations that can occur when unprotected people mingle. 

Furthermore, getting vaccinated can help protect the people who can’t get vaccinated, like children or people with allergies. That’s why it’s crucial to continue taking precautions like washing your hands and wearing a mask, even if you’re vaccinated — because it protects others.

Herd immunity is nice to aspire to and will happen one day, but it’s impossible to determine how long people remain immune to COVID-19 after they’ve had it. Plus, the world may not achieve herd immunity without even more people getting vaccinated to defend those who cannot.

6. Be Open and Honest

Tell your friend why it matters to you so much that they get vaccinated. Appeal to their emotions while being completely honest so they can see why you’re so passionate about encouraging others to get vaccinated. You can even share what made you want to get vaccinated. Ask them to step into your shoes. By listening to each other, you can understand their hesitancy better.

Respect and Support Your Friend Through Their Journey

You should stand by your friend as they sort out their fears and anxieties. Remember, you want to educate them on the vaccines because you love them, not because you want to judge them. Implying to someone that they don’t care about others because of something that might be rooted in anxiety isn’t the way to go — it will only damage your relationship and make them more unlikely to consider getting vaccinated.

Remember that patience is key, as with anything. It may take a few talks to encourage them, but every conversation is a step in the right direction toward vaccination and the world returning to normal.

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