Tips for Speaking to People Hesitant About COVID-19 Vaccine

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SEATTLE – Speaking to folks who are hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine has gained a new sense of urgency as the Delta variant pushes cases up across the country.

Dr. Peter Barkett, an internal-medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente in Silverdale, said people can think of the virus like a fire. The vaccine is starving it of the fuel it needs to keep raging. He said it’s important to keep having conversations with friends and family members about why it’s important to be vaccinated.

“Even if they had it three to six months ago, back when the vaccine was pretty new,” he said, “I think what they’ll find is that many more people have gone through the vaccination process and have had a good outcome, and they should reconsider it.”

Barkett said vaccine rates for Washingtonians ages 18 to 34 are lagging, in part because some in this age group don’t think they need it. But he added that it’s worth reminding people that even if COVID-19 doesn’t get them sick, they could pass it on to vulnerable family members or friends who could be severely affected by the virus.

Barkett said it’s important for people who are vaccine hesitant to hear from people they trust, which could be a family member, friend or religious figure. He noted that in one case, a patient wanted to speak to his rheumatologist before getting the shot because he had concerns about whether it would interact with his medication.

“I said, ‘That’s perfectly reasonable.’ And I called up their rheumatologist while we were in the office together, put them on speaker phone, and we had a conversation,” he said. “And the rheumatologist recommended that we go ahead and take the vaccine – and the patient did.”

There have been reports about people who’ve been vaccinated testing positive for COVID-19 as the Delta variant takes hold. But Barkett noted that the vaccine is like a seat belt: It might not prevent a crash, but it will most likely keep you safe.

“So while the seat belt might not be perfect protection in a motor vehicle accident,” he said, “we do know that it’s very good protection, and it’s far better than the alternative of not wearing a seat belt.”

Photo credit: Nearly 70% of eligible Washingtonians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. (AntonioDiaz/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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