Jun 27, 2022, 1:21:57 PM CDT Jan 3, 2024, 4:04:11 PM CST

How to talk to someone who is vaccine hesitant

Two experts share advice for addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

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COVID‑19 vaccines are the best protection against serious COVID‑19 illness and have played a critical role in reducing the spread of COVID‑19. While more than 250 million people in the United States have safely been vaccinated, some people still feel hesitant about getting a vaccine – or booster – for themselves or their children.

What are common reasons for COVID vaccine hesitancy?

People have different reasons for being hesitant about COVID‑19 vaccines. Many of those reasons come from misinformation online or from friends or family members.

"We have to remember that parents are trying to do what's right for their child and feel really afraid of what could happen," says Dawn Johnson, M.D., Medical Director of Primary Care at Children's Health℠.

Dr. Johnson and her colleague, Nancy Kelly, M.D., a pediatrician with Children's Health and Professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, encourage all people to do their own research on vaccine testing and safety through trusted and vetted organizations, and avoid information from non-scientific sources which may not be based on facts and research. Trusted sources include:

Common questions and concerns about the COVID‑19 vaccine

Drs. Johnson and Kelly talk to many families about COVID-19 vaccines. Here are some of the most common questions and concerns they hear:

Question: Are there certain people, including children, who can't get sick from COVID‑19 and don't need to be vaccinated?

Answer: People of any age can get COVID‑19. While children are at lower risk than adults for serious COVID‑19 illness, children can and do get sick. Getting vaccinated against COVID‑19 is the best way to help children and teens prevent illness, stay in daycare or school and safely participate in activities they enjoy.

Question: How do I know the vaccines are safe?

Answer: COVID‑19 vaccines have undergone rigorous, multi-stage testing processes and large clinical trials to make sure they are safe. Since the COVID‑19 vaccines were first approved, hundreds of millions of people have safely been vaccinated. Experts continue to closely monitor the vaccines and any safety concerns.

Question: Are COVID‑19 vaccines effective?

Answer: Yes. COVID‑19 vaccines have proven to reduce the risk of serious COVID‑19 illness and hospitalization. Staying up to date on your COVID‑19 vaccines is the best way to protect you and your children from illness.

Question: Can COVID‑19 vaccines change my DNA?

Answer: No. COVID‑19 vaccines do not change or interact with DNA in any way.

Question: Do COVID‑19 vaccines cause heart issues?

Answer: One side effect you may have heard about is the chance of heart inflammation, or myocarditis. This is very rare. And when it does happen in those very rare cases, it's a form of myocarditis that is very treatable. According to the CDC, the benefits of vaccination for children far outweigh the risks. Learn more about COVID‑19 vaccines and myocarditis.

Question: Do the vaccines affect fertility?

Answer: There is no evidence that COVID‑19 vaccines cause problems with fertility. Trusted organizations recommend COVID‑19 vaccines for people who may consider getting pregnant in the future. Learn more about COVID‑19 vaccines and fertility.

You can also learn more about common myths and facts about COVID‑19 vaccines.

Tips for talking to people about vaccine hesitancy

Drs. Johnson and Kelly frequently talk with people who are hesitant about getting COVID‑19 vaccines. They offer these tips for talking to someone who isn't sure about getting vaccinated or getting their child vaccinated.

1. Listen and understand the person's concern about vaccines.

Remember, everyone is just trying to do what's best for their family. Try to listen with a sympathetic ear and to understand their main concerns. You can also ask if they are open to an honest discussion about vaccines.

2. Offer trusted resources and information.

If they are willing to have a discussion, you can show them reliable, trustworthy resources about the vaccines, such as the CDC, WHO and the AAP. Try to use these sources to answer their questions. Encourage them to speak to their family doctor or pediatrician.

"Knowledge is power," Dr. Kelly says. "If parents have accurate information, they can make the best decision for their child."

3. Share your personal experience with vaccination.

It can be helpful to share your experience with COVID‑19 vaccines. Tell them why you choose to get vaccinated, if you have had any side effects and how you feel about being vaccinated.

4. Have patience and compassion.

Sharing the facts and your experience and leaving the conversation open is the best way to encourage a dialogue. Throughout your conversation, keep an open mind and be patient. Be curious more than judgmental and treat others with respect even when you disagree.

Learn more about COVID‑19

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

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