A conversation guide to build vaccine confidence in our communities.
Many different types of conversations about COVID-19 have happened in the workplace. However, having conversations about vaccination can be a little more complex. People are more likely to listen to someone they trust and who can relate with them when having a conversation about vaccination. It is important to consider if you are the right messenger to have a conversation with the person that might be vaccine hesitant. Choosing the right messenger is an important part of building trust with the person that may be vaccination hesitant. This guide will provide you with practise scenarios and tips to keep in mind when talking with others about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Trust is an important factor when developing the relationship necessary to have a productive conversation about the COVID-19 vaccines. You can build trust with individuals through shared history or by using credible sources, being transparent about what you do know, and being consistent in what you say. Point them to credible sources where they can find reliable information. Such as Health Canada, the Government of Ontario, and Public Health Sudbury & Districts.
People will be more receptive to having conversations about vaccination if they feel you are empathic and respect them. Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy and trust build good will which is important when having difficult conversations. Being empathetic can sometimes be difficult, here are some tips to help you be more empathetic:
- Show the person you support and understand them.
- Acknowledge their feelings. For example, ‘you must be worried about X’ or ‘I can see you’ve really thought about X’.
- Validate their feeling that is a totally normal thing to feel.
- Finally, name the emotion they are feeling, repeat the emotion they are feeling makes them feel reassured.
Remember, hesitancy is normal. Having questions and concerns about the vaccine is normal. Letting people know you care and want to help them make an informed decision is important when discussing personal choices like vaccination.
Your mental health should always be considered before you make the decision to engage in difficult conversations. You are not alone, and you are not responsible for others health decisions. If you do not feel you have the mental capacity to engage in a constructive discussion about the choice of vaccination, that’s okay! Anyone who has been vaccinated can share their stories to help encourage others get vaccinated.
Key discussion points:
- The COVID-19 vaccines are a safe and effective way to be protected against COVID-19 and the delta variant.
- The COVID-19 vaccines available in Ontario have been approved by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada continues to monitor the COVID-19 vaccines.
- The COVID-19 vaccines were able to be developed so quickly because of international collaboration and previous related research.
- The vaccines underwent an “expedited review process”. Every step of normal vaccine approval was followed but at a faster pace.
- The COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19 or any other infectious disease. None of the vaccines approved by Health Canada contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
- The best vaccine you can get is the first mRNA vaccine available to you. Both mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are interchangeable.
- All authorized vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 and severe illness and hospitalization due to the COVID-19 Delta variant.
- The COVID-19 vaccine protects you against serious cases of COVID-19. By limiting the number of people who get severely sick from COVID-19 we are protecting our hospitals so that normal procedures can take place.
- Once a large percentage of the population is immune to COVID-19 (herd immunity), the spread of the virus will slow down or stop allowing us to return to a pre-pandemic world.
- Getting vaccinated is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.
A) If the individual, you are talking to has no concern regarding the pandemic:
The key thing to remember is that everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in a different way. Some have not had firsthand experience with COVID-19 in their social groups or family. Without firsthand experience it can be hard to understand the severity of the disease and the possible long-term effect of getting COVID-19.
You might hear things such as:
- “The pandemic has been blown out of proportion, it’s just a bad flu.”
- “I know someone who had it and they didn’t get it that bad.”
- “I got chicken pox at 8, shingles at 38 and I’m still living. I don’t see the need to get vaccinated.”
- “It’s only affecting older people. I’m pretty young so I should be fine.”
- “COVID has a 99% survival rate and is less deadly than the flu for most people.”
- “The goal posts and restrictions keep changing. I’m not sure that getting vaccinated will actually make any difference at this point.”
Try to respond respectfully by using these points:
- While you are glad their experience with COVID-19 was not a sad one, that was not the experience for everyone. Many individuals have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and we need to respect them by not dismissing their experiences and claiming COVID-19 ‘Is not that bad’.
- Mention that many reopening plans are and will continue to be tied to vaccination rates.
- Highlight that vaccination can protect not only the person getting the vaccine, but friends, family, and loved ones as well.
- Avoid lengthy debates about facts and stress the ease of access and high safety profile of vaccines. Point them towards all the vaccination opportunities Public Health Sudbury & Districts is hosting.
B) If the individual you are talking to has certain vaccine hesitancy:
Vaccination hesitancy can be due to various factors. Consider what might be leading the person you are talking to, to be vaccine hesitant. Individuals might be vaccine hesitant because of:
Safety and science concerns
You might hear:
- “I don’t trust anyone about this. We’re being treated like guinea pigs.”
- “We don’t know the long-term side effects of this.”
- “I’m not taking an unapproved vaccine.”
- “I already had COVID-19, why would I need to get a vaccine?”
- “I’ve heard that the mRNA vaccines will alter my DNA.”
- “It’s too early to know what the effects of the vaccine will be on my baby or my chances of conceiving.”
- “I hear that the side effects from the second dose are really bad.”
- “My [friend/family member] had a really bad reaction after they got the vaccine. I am worried about that for me.”
- “I’ve been hearing about these blood clot and heart issues and worry about how safe these vaccines are.”
Try answering with this:
- The vaccines approved for use in Canada have undergone a rigorous testing and approval process to ensure their safety and efficacy.
- If you had COVID-19 it is still recommended that you get the vaccine. There is some evidence to suggest that you will have some natural immunity, but we don’t know how long it will last. It is best to get vaccinated to stay protected
- I know that the unknown can be scary, but vaccines and mRNA technology have come a long way and is safe and effective to protect against COVID-19.
- Vaccines are a normal part of prenatal care and there are benefits of vaccination shared between mother and unborn child for example, passive immunity. Encourage them to speak with their health care provider to make the best decision for themselves and the unborn child.
- There is no evidence that suggests that the COVID-19 vaccine affects your fertility but there is evidence that shows COVID-19 can cause impotence.
- It’s true that there are possible side effects of the vaccines, but they are typically mild and are a sign that your immune system is doing its job.
- Discuss that common, flu-like symptoms from the vaccine are beneficial and demonstrate that the immune system is at work.
- Consider comparing risk of adverse events to risks present in everyday, common activities like car accidents and airline travel.
- The Governments of Canada and Ontario continue to monitor the vaccines, their safety, and any adverse events.
- If you are concerned about possible adverse reactions talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks of vaccination to make the best decision of you.
Influenced by rumours, conspiracies, or misinformation
You might hear:
- “I don’t think pharmaceutical companies/Big Pharma have our best interest in mind. They’re all about making profits.”
- “I’m not going to be injected with a vaccine developed by Bill Gates to control the population.”
- “Mainstream media is ignoring the facts of the virus. It’s overhyped panic.”
- “How can we be sure there are no chips involved in the vaccines?”
- “It’s an unapproved vaccine. I won’t be taking any unapproved experimental drugs that are only in use because they fall under an emergency order.”
Try answering with:
- Health Canada has rigorously tested and continues to monitor the vaccines for safety and efficacy. Reassure them there is no credible evidence that the virus has a microchip or that it was made to control the population.
- A hypothetical situation or scenario that can help show them alternatives to their current views.
- Try to help them identify situations or scenarios that would change their mind about the vaccines.
- Asking were they found the information and helping them find more credible sources such as ontario.ca or Health Canada.
- The COVID-19 vaccine was approved through a fast-tracked review process. This means Health Canada was able to start the review process right away. They were also able to review any new evidence as it became available. More scientific resources were dedicated to completing these reviews so that they were done quickly but without cutting corners. Did you know a similar process was used in 2009 to review and authorize the H1N1 pandemic vaccine?
- Refer to Practice scenario A for more prompts.
Conflict with personal or political values
You might hear:
- “The vaccines are unnatural. I’d rather get COVID and build my immune system the natural way.”
- “The vaccines have toxins in them. I don’t want to put toxins into my body.”
- “I’m not going to let the government have control over what goes into my body.”
Try answering with this:
- While there is some evidence to suggest that you will have some natural immunity after getting COVID-19, we don’t know how long it will last. It is best to get vaccinated to stay protected.
- The vaccine ingredients are safe and not toxic. Part of the vaccine approval process is ensuring that the ingredients used in vaccines are safe.
- Vaccination is a personal choice, and that the government is not forcing individuals to get vaccinated.
- Focus on personal benefits of getting vaccinated like travel, socializing, and recreational activities.
Religious or moral objections to the vaccines
You might hear:
- “Taking the vaccine goes against my religious beliefs. My concern is more of a religious position.”
Try answering with this:
- Vaccination is a moral act (an act of neighbourly love) as you are protecting the most vulnerable in the community.
- Various religious authorities around the world have declared the vaccines and vaccination to be morally acceptable and advisable.
Afraid of needles
You might hear:
- “I really hate needles.”
- “I’m worried about getting the shot because I get really nervous when I see a needle.”
- “I once fainted after I got a vaccine”
- “Even if you just say words like ‘injection’ or ‘blood work’, my stomach turns to ice.”
Try answering with this:
- Having a needle phobia is normal and does not need to stop you from getting your vaccines.
- The nurses and doctor that administer the vaccine are highly skilled and know how to give vaccines to those with a needle phobia.
- Stretchers are available at the clinic for those that fear fainting.
- Did you know that Public Health Sudbury & Districts host special sensory friendly clinics that might make the experience of getting your vaccine easier?
- The CARD method is a great way to help those with a needle phobia.
- Boissy, A., Merlino, J. I., Bayer, S., Green, A., Hancock, K. K., Nagel, C., Peeples, L., Phillips, H., Warmuth, A., & Windover, A. (2020). Communicating and Managing with Empathy in a Time of Crisis: A Cleveland Clinic Guide. COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace. clevelandclinic.org/covid19atwork.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2021, April 15). Yes, COVID-19 Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction. Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/yes-covid-19-can-cause-erectile-dysfunction/#:~:text=Researchers%20are%20piecing%20together%20that,Vascular%20effects.
- Government of Ontario. (2021). Tips and Facts Holding conversations to build vaccine confidence in your long-term care home.
- Leslie, M., Fadaak, R., & Pinto, N. (2021). Vaccine Hesitancy Guide. https://www.vhguide.ca/.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. (2021, June 21). Vaccines and treatments for COVID-19: Progress. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/covid-19-vaccine-treatment.html.
This item was last modified on May 13, 2022