Vaccine Hesitancy: How to Respond to 5 Common Concerns


As more and more people receive COVID-19 vaccines, you may notice that you have friends and family who still seem reluctant to get their vaccination. Maybe they doubt the safety of the vaccines or don’t think it’s necessary to get one.

Vaccine hesitancy refers to the questions, doubts, and fears many people have about getting a COVID-19 vaccine despite being able to go and get vaccinated. Many people are open to getting vaccinated, but just need an extra nudge from a loved one to overcome vaccine hesitancy—a source they’re more likely to listen to and trust than a news outlet or government official.

Dr. Emilio Dominguez, an infectious disease specialist and Florida Medical Clinic’s Chief Medical Officer, describes some of the most common concerns from vaccine-hesitant patients—and how you can talk to your own loved ones about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Tips for Talking With Vaccine-Hesitant Loved Ones

It’s normal to have questions and concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. Thankfully, the truth is often a lot less scary than a vaccine-hesitant person might believe.

  • First, stay level-headed. It’s easy to get frustrated when talking to a friend or family member who doesn’t believe getting the vaccine is necessary—but it’s important to keep your emotions in check. Staying calm is the best way to keep the conversation on topic.
  • Listen to your loved ones’ concerns. Everyone who is vaccine-hesitant has a different reason for being hesitant. Listen to your loved ones and try to sincerely understand the source of their doubts. Don’t dismiss their questions or pass judgment.
  • Be honest when you don’t have an answer. If a loved one asks a question you don’t have the answer to, don’t just guess or dismiss it. Instead, use this as a learning opportunity and say, “I’m not sure about that, so let’s find out together.” Then, look for the answer from a reliable source, like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, or even call a local doctor who you both trust.

Some may never change their minds about not getting vaccinated—but many people with vaccine hesitancy just need a trusted friend or family member to encourage them to do the right thing.

Below are five common coronavirus vaccine concerns, along with facts to help you respond to them.

#1. “The vaccines aren’t safe or effective.”

So far, over 163 million people in the US have been vaccinated against COVID-19, as have millions more worldwide. Areas that have a high vaccination rate have a lower rate of coronavirus infections and deaths

We’ve seen from both clinical trials and widespread use across the US that the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are both safe and effective at preventing COVID-19.

While each vaccine may come with some possible side effects, these typically last only about a day or two. There are some cases of people having allergic reactions to the vaccine, so vaccine providers will ask you to stay for about 15 minutes after each shot to monitor you.

#2. “The vaccine trials were rushed.”

Some people may be concerned that vaccines were developed too quickly or that the manufacturers skipped steps in the approval process. This just isn’t true. 

To ensure the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson shots are safe and effective, each had to go through extensive clinical trials and layers of review—the same as with any vaccine or new medication.

The reason why the COVID-19 shot development process seemed so quick was because drug development companies received a lot of funding from lots of different sources, ranging from the federal government to private corporations. These sources of funding mean COVID-19 vaccine trials were able to avoid a lot of delays that are faced by other, less urgent medical studies.

Researchers didn’t have to start from scratch, either. Coronaviruses are quite common—some can even cause the common cold—and we have decades worth of data about this type of virus. 

#3. “We don’t know the exact ingredients of each vaccine.”

You may have heard a loved one say, “We just don’t know what’s in them,” as a way to cast doubt about the vaccines.

Actually, we do know exactly what’s in each vaccine. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson each had to provide full ingredient lists and manufacturing information before getting cleared for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

You can view FDA fact sheets that include full ingredient lists of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Note: If you’re allergic to any of these ingredients or have a history of vaccine allergies, talk to a doctor before getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

#4. “One vaccine is better than the others.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective at preventing COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 72% effective overall. Does that mean the Pfizer vaccine is better than the Johnson & Johnson shot? Not exactly, experts say.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was tested in areas that saw a lot of the Beta (B.1.351) variant, which first emerged in South Africa. The Pfizer vaccine wasn’t tested specifically against this variant. When vaccines are compared in different countries and under different circumstances, it’s hard to compare them one-to-one. None of these vaccines were compared head-to-head during clinical trials.

Scientists are still learning exactly how vaccines stack up against different virus variants, but one thing’s for certain: you should get the first vaccine that’s available to you, no matter which it is. They’re all effective and safe, and they all help in the fight against the pandemic.

#5. “I’m healthy, so I don’t need the vaccine.”

When you get a vaccine, you’re not only protecting yourself but also your loved ones and other members of your community.

You may have heard that something called herd immunity is important, but do you know why?

Herd immunity is when enough people are vaccinated that a virus isn’t able to spread anymore and people who can’t get vaccinated are protected from getting sick. Herd immunity is the reason why we don’t see widespread measles or polio outbreaks anymore.

Some groups of people can’t get vaccinated, including people with weakened immune systems and those who are allergic to vaccine ingredients. They’re at risk of catching COVID-19 and getting sick or even dying.

So when a healthy person gets vaccinated, they’re not only protecting themselves—they’re also protecting their loved ones who can’t get vaccinated and helping build toward herd immunity, which saves lives.

But as of June 15, 2021, only 43.3% of Hillsborough County residents were vaccinated. Scientists aren’t sure exactly what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, but we do know that the current rates are too low.

No matter which shot you get, getting vaccinated also helps protect the people around you.

Schedule a Vaccine Appointment Today

Convincing a hesitant loved one to get vaccinated can be difficult, but listening to their concerns and having an earnest, open discussion can make a huge difference.

If you’d like to speak with a doctor to ask questions one-on-one, schedule an appointment with a Florida Medical Clinic physician today. You can also read our blog for the latest coronavirus news updates or sign up for our e-newsletter.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or treatments.



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