Ana Sokolovic, a licensed psychotherapist and life coach with ParentingPod.com, said it’s important to ask questions and really listen.
“To be able to put your own perspective on hold, you must acknowledge that it is their right to choose whether they want to get vaccinated,” she told Healthline. “You may not agree with it or like it, but the choice is not yours to make.”
Sokolovic said it’s important not to “attack” people with facts or use the word “fear.” Rather, say “concerns” or “doubts.”
“If you mention fear, they may become defensive, especially if they struggle to show vulnerability,” she said. “While some people will openly talk about their fears, others will deny that they are afraid.”
So, without mentioning it, Sokolovic recommends trying to understand the nature and the source of the person’s fear, whether that is getting sick from the vaccine, being controlled or manipulated, or because of conspiracy theories, social pressure, or a lack of information.
That could include asking questions like, “What would make you more comfortable to get the vaccine? What would make you feel more confident? What information would you need to think of the vaccines differently? What has the potential to change your mind?”
Ann Marie Pettis, RN, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology, said the best way to address vaccine hesitancy, especially among healthcare workers, is to meet with them one-on-one to understand their concerns and hear their perspective.
“Shaming or arguing does not work,” she said. “It’s important to understand their objections.”
While carefully listening, Pettis said it’s also important to give people the facts and then let them decide.
“It’s been my experience that giving time to process the information often brings about the decision to be vaccinated,” she said. “I have come to realize that you can take away an objection but not an excuse.”
Countering misinformation with specific facts can help people reach a different conclusion
Kenyon said that despite the COVID-19 vaccines being remarkably effective and safe at bringing the pandemic under control, there’s been a lot of misinformation as the science unfolded.
“Misinformation in its various forms is an important driver of vaccine hesitancy and is a serious obstacle to saving lives, restoring our economy, and restoring life as we know it,” he said. “While we enjoy many individual freedoms in the U.S., including freedom of speech, we don’t have the freedom to harm others.”
Kenyon said people need to counter misinformation with specific facts.
One example is that because the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) use “genetic material,” some people believe they change a person’s DNA, which Kenyon said is “scientifically impossible.”
“Other more sinister conspiracy theories exist. We need to counter misinformation with the facts as we know them in the various ways of communication at our disposal,” he said. “Eventually the facts will prevail, and increased vaccination uptake will result.”