Jun 27, 2022, 1:21:57 PM CDT Jun 27, 2022, 3:24:35 PM CDT

How to talk to someone who is vaccine hesitant

Two experts share advice for addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

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The COVID‑19 vaccine is the best protection against serious COVID‑19 illness and has played a critical role in reducing the spread of COVID‑19. While more than 250 million people in the United States have safely gotten the vaccine, many still feel hesitant about getting the vaccine for themselves or their children.

What are common reasons for COVID vaccine hesitancy?

People have different reasons for being hesitant about the COVID‑19 vaccine. Unfortunately, many of those reasons come from misinformation online or even 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 sites include:

Common questions and concerns about the COVID‑19 vaccine

Drs. Johnson and Kelly share some of the most common questions and concerns they hear when talking to families about the COVID‑19 vaccine:

Question: Are there certain people, including children, who can't get sick from COVID‑19 and don't need the vaccine?
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. Therefore, children and teens should get vaccinated against COVID‑19 to help prevent illness, stay in daycare or school and safely participate in activities they enjoy.

Question: The vaccine was approved quickly. How do I know it is safe?
Answer: COVID‑19 vaccines have undergone rigorous, multi-stage testing processes and large clinical trials to ensure they are safe. Since the COVID‑19 vaccines were first approved, hundreds of millions of people have safely gotten vaccinated. Experts continue to closely monitor the vaccines and any safety concerns.

Question: Is the COVID‑19 vaccine 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 vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from illness.

Question: Can the COVID‑19 vaccine change my DNA?
Answer: No. The COVID‑19 vaccines do not change or interact with DNA in any way.

Question: Does the COVID‑19 vaccine cause heart issues?
Answer: One side effect that parents may have heard about is the chance of heart inflammation, or myocarditis. This is very rare and cases have been mild. People are more likely to experience myocarditis after COVID 19 illness than vaccination. Learn more about the COVID‑19 vaccine and myocarditis.

Question: Does the vaccine increase infertility?
Answer: There is no evidence that COVID‑19 vaccination causes problems with fertility. Trusted organizations recommend COVID‑19 vaccination for people who may consider getting pregnant in the future. Learn more about COVID‑19 vaccines and fertility.

You can find more information about common COVID‑19 vaccine FAQs here.

Tips for talking to people about vaccine hesitancy

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

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

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

2. Offer trusted resources and information.

If they are willing to have a discussion, you can show them validated, reliable 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 good information, they can make good decisions for their child."

3. Share your personal experience with vaccination.

You can share your experience with the COVID‑19 vaccination. Tell them why you chose to get the vaccine, if you had any side effects and how you feel now that you are vaccinated.

4. Have patience and compassion.

Throughout your conversation, keep an open mind and be patient. Be curious, not judgmental. While the topic of COVID‑19 vaccines can become a divisive one, it's important to treat others with respect even when you disagree. Sharing the facts and your experience and leaving the conversation open is the best way to encourage a dialogue.

Listen to the Children's Health Checkup podcast for more information about vaccine hesitancy.

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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