Bridging the Divide
In terms of solutions, Shaban-Nejad said, “We emphasize the importance of clear, consistent, targeted, unambiguous messaging, which considers differences in populations’ dynamics, characteristics, and their nature of concerns.”
While not possible for all health care professionals, Ryan Knopp, MD, a family physician in Manhattan, KS, recommends spending as much time as necessary to listen to and address patient concerns. He reported success with this approach on a recent Twitter thread:
“Happy day for me. Several people I care a lot about got the COVID vaccine today, overcoming some hesitancy. What do I say to my patients who are unsure about the vaccine? This:” he wrote, and then outlined his approach to talking with them in subsequent tweets.
Discussing extensive safety data with people who are vaccine-hesitant could be a useful strategy, a national online poll from Morning Consult on behalf of the de Beaumont Foundation indicates. Administered just days before the full Pfizer vaccine approval, 35% of 956 unvaccinated adults indicated the FDA’s action would address most or all of their concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Almost 4 in 10 people chose full FDA vaccine approval as their first or second motivating factor. Employer requirements, less testing, access to public events, and encouragement from their children were other factors.
A Role for Well-Informed Providers
Although it remains to be seen if full approval of the Pfizer vaccine will dissipate such concerns, Joseph A. Bellanti, MD, said that a belief in inadequate safety testing has prevented some from getting vaccinated.
Confidence that natural immunity is sufficient for protection and that vaccines are overused or unnecessary are additional drivers of hesitancy, Bellanti said.
Doctors who engage directly with patients, such as allergists and immunologists, can play an essential role in promoting the COVID-19 vaccine to patients, Bellanti said. He outlines effective strategies in an upcoming publication in the September-October Allergy & Asthma Proceedings.
For example, to counter the “diminished level of confidence and trust by segments of the public in the nation’s leaders in government, medical and business communities that these groups once enjoyed,” he suggested health care professionals engage in a conversation along the lines of shared clinical decision-making.