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Conversations with the Unvaccinated

DR. JENSEN & DR. WILSON ̓ S, Uxbridge Cottage Hospital

UXBRIDGE: A fourth wave of COVID-19 due to the Delta variant is probable this fall. But the impact of the fourth wave on our town, schools, and businesses will largely depend on the level of vaccination in our community. Most of you reading this are vaccinated, so we are asking you to help reach those in your circle of influence who have yet to be vaccinated.

There are three main groups of people who have not been vaccinated yet:

People with poor access to the vaccine People who are vaccine-hesitant People who are anti-vaccine Those With Poor Access

Let’s begin with those with poor access to the vaccine. They may be indifferent or face logistical hurdles to getting the vaccine. If you have someone like this in your life, please lend them a hand!

All mass immunization clinics in Durham are now accepting walk-ins for first and second vaccine doses. No appointments are necessary.

If they prefer a scheduled appointment, help them book one at or by calling 1-888-444-5113. If transportation is an issue, we can help to bring the vaccine to housebound patients.

Those Who Are Vaccine Hesitant Engaging with those who are vaccine-hesitant requires thought and strategy. Most people who have not yet been vaccinated are not “anti-vax.” Rather, they have valid concerns, driven by something they saw online, heard from a friend, or from a prior experience. Some may not trust the medical community. Some feel pressured or are concerned that their freedom of choice is being taken away. Whatever the source, they have genuine anxiety around getting the vaccine. They are not difficult people; they are just people with concerns arising from misinformation or disinformation. And they are the group who can make or break herd immunity.

Step 1: Engage openly with kindness and common ground. We all want all this pandemic to be over, and we want to make the best choices for ourselves and our families. Recognize that when your friend or neighbour, or family member holds back on the vaccine, they are making their current choice for specific reasons that probably tie into their desire for the health and well-being of themselves and their family. Begin by engaging openly with them to understand those reasons better. Affirm and listen to them—no eye rolls, no corrections, no “buts,” and no interruptions. Just listen and try to affirm their concerns by repeating them back. “Hmm … so you are worried about fertility issues. Yeah, I wouldn’t want your daughter to have issues down the road either … that would be concerning.”

Step 2: Resist the urge to correct. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a pushy salesman. Save the rebuttals and instead try to open up a re-thinking cycle by asking engaging questions. “Where did you hear about the vaccine causing fertility issues?” and follow-up questions like “Do you know very much about the person who made a claim?” and “Wow, that is concerning. Did you look into it further on fact-checker sites or bring that up with your doctor?” The idea is not to challenge but to bring the person back to their original concerns and assumptions. If they come back to where they started, they may re-examine those conclusions and come to a new decision on their own.

Step 3: Ask permission to share some information or thoughts. By asking permission, you return control to the other person who has the right to say no. And if they say no, then move on and talk about something else. If permission is granted, then share your motivations for your decision to get vaccinated. If you have information about the concerns raised, mention that. For example, “I decided that for my family and me, getting vaccinated was the next most important step in keeping our community and us safe. This is because so many people died, and a good friend is still suffering from long-haul COVID. I was concerned about the safety of the vaccine, too, so I spoke with my doctor, who answered many of my questions. She said the fertility issue had been studied very seriously, and there is no link at all. Plenty of vaccinated women are getting pregnant and having normal pregnancies. I could share some of the links she sent me if you are interested in reading more.”

Step 4: Stand back and wait. A change in mindset doesn’t happen overnight. Long-held beliefs or fears do not melt away with a single conversation. Still, they can start to dissolve with respectful dialogue. Just be there without judgment for any conversations that may occur in the future. Most of all, do your best not to let this difference of opinion affect your relationship.

Those Who are Against Vaccination We do not recommend engaging with individuals who are against vaccination unless they ask for your input. As the Delta variant continues to aggressively attack the unvaccinated around the world, be prepared that those who have been against vaccination may think again and be more open to conversations with you. Be prepared when that time comes!

We are asking for your help to boost our town’s vaccination levels. If not, Delta will make an unwelcome appearance, and we will all be left to deal with the unfortunate consequences.

In the home stretch of this marathon with you,

Carlye & Jennifer

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