~4 min read
Access to health information has never been easier, which certainly has advantages. The more challenging task is helping the general public understand whether their discovered information is reputable, accurate and up-to-date. In short, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration ended on May 11, 2023, but the rampant spread of misinformation about vaccine safety continues.1
As you engage with patients experiencing vaccine hesitancy – whether it's related to a concern about childhood vaccines causing autism or the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine – you have an opportunity to address their concerns directly and educate them forward.2 This guidance informs the public one patient at a time, teaching them to separate myth from fact and preventing the continued spread of false information about all vaccines.
Here are several strategies to keep in your vaccine hesitancy toolkit:
Educate yourself on what's new
Now that the emergent period of COVID is over, the flow of new information is much more manageable – and there's a more established body of research from which to draw.
Nevertheless, educating your patients and their families starts with you. Get updated on what's new and different via these insights from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).3
As of July 2023, the following updates are the latest regarding COVID-19 vaccinations:
- Since May 12, 2023, the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is no longer available in the US.
- Moving forward, most COVID-related tools will remain available: vaccines, treatments and testing. However, certain data sources and reporting methods may change.
- COVID-19 vaccines (other than the Janssen) will remain available. The government currently distributes free COVID vaccines for people of all ages as part of its continued commitment to vaccine accessibility.
- Treatments and medications to prevent severe COVID-19 will remain available. Paxlovid, for example, will be available for free while supplies last.
- Reporting of COVID-19 cases on a national level may change.
- At-home tests for COVID-19 may not be covered by insurance, and insurance providers are no longer required to waive the costs of tests or provide free ones. However, the CDC has a program that connects people with community and pharmacy partners to alleviate this cost burden.
- To find out who's participating in the Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT program), run a search via the No Cost COVID-19 Testing Locator.4
- The COVID-19 vaccine immunization schedule (updated May 31, 2023) breaks down recommended doses and timing by age group.5
- View the current CDC guidelines (in infographic form) for COVID-19 vaccine administration for those aged six months and over.6
Engage with your patients regularly
Consistent, open communication with your patients is the best way to confront vaccine hesitancy firsthand.
While the initial push of COVID vaccination is behind us, the recommendations to get vaccinated — whether for COVID-19, RSV, the flu or any other vaccination — should be handled in a gentle, non-judgmental way.
How to educate, communicate and motivate your vaccine-hesitant patients
In addition to educating them about misinformation, it's important to listen to your patients to better understand their reasons for vaccine hesitancy.
In fact, before you educate them about facts vs. myths, ask your patients about their concerns. Give them adequate time to share without dismissing their worries.
Allow extra time to shape the discussion; let them know you're on their side. Your goal is to establish a respectful relationship, and helping your patients feel seen and heard will go a long way in building long-term rapport.
Some patient populations, such as minority or low-income groups, are hesitant about vaccinations because they've been historically under-treated and mistreated.
According to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, "For BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities, such hesitancy is rooted in both the historical and contemporary contexts of systemic racism, marginalization and neglect that shape daily life today."7
By validating these concerns and seeing them from the patient's point of view, you'll be better positioned to share educational information that alleviates hesitancy and resistance. Recommendations may also be received with less fear or fighting, but instead, with compliance and adherence.
Do your due diligence research
Educating your patients starts with you. In addition to browsing the most recent vaccine updates via the CDC website (CDC.gov) or the Health & Human Services website (HHS.gov), familiarize yourself with the most common misconceptions and the facts that dispute them.
Reputable medical organizations like the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics are among the best places to find updated, relevant resources and information to share with vaccine-hesitant patients.8,9,10
Partner with your supply chain for prompt deliveries
The number of patients seeking vaccines may vary by season (like flu season) or between COVID-19 surges. So how can you work with your supply chain to make sure you have the vaccines you need for your pediatric and adult patients?
Non-flu vaccines are returnable upon expiration. Keep an additional supply of back-to-school and respiratory vaccines during peak flu seasons, for related conditions or other instances of increased patient visits. Remember that you may have walk-ins as well as regular appointments.
If you're proactive, you'll be able to help your patients make the wisest choices where vaccines are concerned.
McKesson Medical-Surgical offers other ways to spread the word about your vaccine services to patients. You can download social media posts, text messaging and email templates, parking lot signs, banner ads, and more from our vaccine engagement toolkit.
Also, check out McKesson's comprehensive catalog of adult and pediatric vaccines.