Encouragement or Insults: What's the Better Way to Deal With the Unvaccinated

There are various opinions about what needs to be done to increase vaccine percentages.

Some physicians who deal with COVID-19 patients on the front line are more sympathetic towards those who haven't received the vaccine while other care providers are frustrated with the inaction.

University of South Alabama assistant professor of neurology, Dr. Richard Menger, might have discovered the sweet spot in getting those on the vaccine sideline into the game. In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Dr. Menger said, "Lecturing and moral superiority aren't working, so healthcare workers should try humility and respect."

Why not? National statistics report 61% of the population have been vaccinated with at least one dose. Two states lurking near the vaccine bottom are Alabama and Georgia. 48.3 % of the Alabama population have received at least one dose and Georgia's population is slightly better at 49.9%, according to the data compiled by the Mayo Clinic.

We have been inundated by information from experts as well as the average Joe on the street. Everyone seems to think they are experts when it comes to the COVID vaccine.

I was taught long ago that if you want a customer to say yes to a sale, the customer may need additional information. We have all been on information overload when it comes to the vaccine. Since the first Pfizer vaccines started rolling out in December 2020, we have heard the pros and cons 24/7 since President Trump announced Operation Warp Speed for the vaccine developments and roll out. Regardless, the vaccine percentage rate among Americans is still entirely too low.

Albert Einstein is known for one of his famous quotes, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". Maybe it is time to listen to Dr. Menger's words and do what he suggests, and that is to treat people considering the vaccine with respect and dignity.

The health caregivers and providers are our heroes!  Many of them have been on the front lines battling COVID and saving lives since January 2020. It may be frustrating for our doctors and nurses, but our health care heroes may need to spend a little more time building relationships with patients and compassionately understanding their vaccine roadblocks. President Roosevelt once said, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." Those words ring very true today with so much vaccine uncertainty.

On the West Coast, compassion fatigue is setting in. Dr. Anita Sircar is not so understanding of those who are still unvaccinated. Dr. Sircar is an infectious disease physician and clinical instructor of health sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine.

In her letter to the LA Times, Dr. Sircar said, "If you believe you can ride out the pandemic without getting vaccinated, you could not be more wrong. This virus will find you."  Recently while working with an unvaccinated patient who ended up in the emergency room with dangerously low oxygen levels, Dr. Sircar struggled to find sympathy.

Last year, in a similar case, Dr. Sircar would have wrestled with how unfair life can be and how unlucky the patient was for contracting the disease. This year, Dr. Sircar's thoughts are dramatically different reporting, "The vaccine has been widely available for months in the U.S., free to anyone who wanted it, even offered in drugstores and supermarkets. Cutting-edge technology, mind-blowing, lifesaving vaccines were available where people shopped for groceries, and still didn't want one." The point Dr. Sircar is attempting to get across is it's time for people to take ownership of their health and those around them.

Ana Sokolovic, a licensed psychotherapist and life coach believes it's important to ask questions of those who haven't been vaccinated and listen intently to the patient. Similar to Dr. Menger, Sokolovic advocates not attacking people with facts or using the word "fear.” Instead, think about using the words, “concerns” or “doubts".

Sokolovic believes rather than forcing data on those who seem to be on the fence, the odds will be greatly enhanced by asking:

  • What would make you more comfortable getting the vaccine?
  • What would make you feel more confident?
  • What information would you need to think of the vaccines differently? What has the potential to change your mind?

If we truly understand the needs and concerns of the patient, the percentages will certainly improve. Let's do it America!


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