Have you convinced a reluctant family member to get the vaccine?
March 22, 2021 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I have a family member who will be eligible for the vaccine shortly. He is hesitant - he's worried about there being long-term side effects that we don't know about yet and the vaccine approval process being "rushed." I want to convince him to get the vaccine. More info inside.

He's not right-wing or an anti-vaxxer, but he's relatively low information and he works with a lot of people who are. Sometimes I hear him repeating talking points that are "in the air," so to speak. I'm concerned about him because he's older, and so he's more likely to do worse if he does get Covid. Luckily, his wife has already gotten her first shot and will get her second shot soon.

An additional factor is that he haaaaaaaates going to the doctor or to the hospital. I think his hesitancy is partly real concern and partly a cover for just really not wanting to do it.

I have a good relationship with him. I might be able to convince him to sit down with me and look at information about the vaccine, if it's concisely packaged/well-explained.

So, I'm looking for:

(a) Advice from people who have successfully convinced family members with similar concerns to get the vaccine.

(b) Any recommendations for concise explainers about why the vaccine is safe, especially to someone who thinks the development/approval process was "rushed" or who needs to be reassured about why unknown long-term side effects are unlikely.

Yes, I did try the "we already know that covid has long-term side effects, including DEATH" tactic, and will try it again. He values being a hard working man and his job involves a lot of physical labor, so pointing out that he might have to RETIRE if he gets covid will probably be one one tactic I try. Something concise about long covid might also be helpful there, if you know of anything.
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Re B: I work for a major research organisation in the U.K. and made this to help counter concerns around research being rushed: https://youtu.be/VpIsvIWJ5u4
posted by ozgirlabroad at 1:32 PM on March 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

I think the standard approach for this kind of thing is to respectfully elicit what their concerns are, in real detail, and ask what they would need to feel that those concerns had been addressed. Also bring out values they have that might support making the decision--but not in an accusatory or "gotcha" way. More like, "so you're saying it's important to you to be able to work your job; do you think COVID might have any impact on that, or not?" Point is, it's got to be driven by them and their concerns and their viewpoint, so that at the least they come away feeling like you've listened to and respected the sources of their hesitancy, which in the end may bring them to get the vaccine even if they don't do so right away. (This is v. hard to do well, btw, so don't blame yourself for struggling.)
posted by praemunire at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2021 [10 favorites]

“We can’t visit you until you get vaccinated” worked for us.
posted by cakelite at 1:41 PM on March 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

An additional factor is that he haaaaaaaates going to the doctor or to the hospital. I think his hesitancy is partly real concern and partly a cover for just really not wanting to do it.

I don't know if this helps, or what the setup is like in the place where he'd be getting it, but I got the vaccine at a vaccination center (not a clinic) and it involved maybe 2 total minutes of human interaction each time: I came in, got a number, got called, gave my ID info (I had an appointment so I was already in the system), got jabbed (a light sting), got a band-aid, and left; they said to sit around for 15 minutes to make sure there were no immediate side effects so I had a nice sit outside. No conversation, no questions, no forms to fill out, no hospital smells or gowns or anything. No doctors, for that matter.

Any chance you've got a drive-through site nearby?
posted by trig at 1:58 PM on March 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

On the "rushed" front, I've had some success reassuring family members by explaining the fast turnaround on the vaccine as being like when you pay for rush shipping on something - yes, it happened faster than most drug development, but if you're willing to drop everything and hire extra people and divert a lot of resources, you can get things done faster without "rushing" the work or the science. You get the same amount of work done at the same quality - you just have a lot more people working on it.

Like, if I wanted to get my roof replaced and pay a normal amount, it would take X number of guys X number of days to do it and I probably wouldn't be able to get it scheduled exactly when I wanted. But if I was willing to pay way over the going rate, I could probably get a crew to redo my roof overnight.
posted by mskyle at 2:00 PM on March 22, 2021 [23 favorites]

My favorite one-liner on this is, "they didn't take any shortcuts on the science, they just cut through the red tape."

Dr. Kimberly Manning has written a bunch of exquisite Twitter threads documenting her conversations with vaccine hesitant people. Lots of good lessons there, even if the specifics are different in your case.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 2:01 PM on March 22, 2021 [20 favorites]

There appear to be long term effects of Covid, even for the asymptomatic.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:18 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

The rush shipping analogy is a good one. For about six months, millions of scientists were working on nothing else -- all other clinical trials around the world were shuttered. If he's familiar with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, that's another example of a spell of concentrated global attention (and $$$) leading to a breakthrough in drug development. The Ice Bucket Challenge raised ~ $220M in the US; by contrast NIH has spent $5B on covid research in the last year. That's 25 times as much money! And doesn't even account for other funders.

On the safety front, hundreds of thousands of people were enrolled in vaccine trials, and in the ~6 months since the Emergency Use Authorization for Pfizer and Moderna, millions more have received the vaccine. Most drugs -- most vaccines! -- are brought to market with way less testing and follow-up duration. If the vaccine were even 1/10th as dangerous as the disease, we'd see people dropping like flies.

One thing I didn't know was that the technology for the mRNA vaccines, even though it's been touted as shiny and new, has actually been around for decades. That helped reassure me that this isn't some fly-by-night idea.
posted by basalganglia at 2:48 PM on March 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

No possible side effects from the vaccine-and as far as we know they're not that bad--can possibly be as awful as the known problems that come with Covid. If you're not getting vaccinated, you're a sitting duck (especially if he's working physical labor around other people, which I assume he is from this?) and at high risk for them ruining your life/career or possibly ending it. Enough people have been vaccinated past the first few months for us to know if anything bad was happening.

Here's an article (seems to be from Australia) about possible "rushing."
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on March 22, 2021

For about six months, millions of scientists were working on nothing else -- all other clinical trials around the world were shuttered.

This is not accurate, and if it becomes a repeated meme risks being an easily disproven one that'll cost the fact-based world some credibility. We didn't shut down all other clinical research and the number of scientists working on vaccines was not millions--there just aren't that many vaccine experts out there!

The amazing speed was a combination of luck (this virus is relatively susceptible to vaccines), doing things at-risk (companies were investing a lot of money to prepare for the next steps before they new the results of the last step) and lots of shots on goal (companies like Merck tried and failed with multiple vaccine candidates.) The last point might be something worth bringing up--it's not like they were just rubber-stamping things.
posted by mark k at 5:01 PM on March 22, 2021 [23 favorites]

Seconding praemunire's advice. If you need help getting in the mindset of question-asking rather than information-giving, go to youtube and search for "motivational interviewing." You'll find some videos introducing basic principles, and others demonstrating the technique. Basically, MI is about helping someone get out of an, "I don't wanna and you can't make me!" defensive stance, and into a place of being able to identify and assess their current fears/beliefs/behaviors. A successful MI conversation might still end with your relative saying, "I'll have to think about it"--it's not a guaranteed home run, but it's definitely more likely to move them toward the vaccine than shoving facts down their throat would.

Regarding the hospital/doctors issue, might he feel more comfortable going to a local pharmacy?
posted by theotherdurassister at 5:14 PM on March 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't want to mark any comments as best answer yet, because I welcome any additional advice, but I want to thank you for the resources and experiences you've shared so far.

Just as a reminder, I'm not the hesitant one - I don't need an explanation of why/how my relative should get the vaccine. I know he should! Reminding me that he should just makes me more anxious about his health. This is entirely about techniques and info to help him feel comfortable taking that step.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:24 PM on March 22, 2021

Would this relative feel better getting the J&J vaccine, since it's a viral vector (known and something we've practiced a lot), than the newer MRNA vaccines? I could see that idea potentially working.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:51 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh, oh, I would absolutely believe this is 20% about the science and 80% about avoiding doctors and the unpleasant DMV-esq part of the experience-especially the unknowns and the waiting in line.

Can your help your family member plan a day of indulgent/rewarding things to go with the vaccine appointment? Focus less on the medical part, and approach it as “well, you’re *going* to get a shot, so what can you do after that will make you as happy as the shot makes you unhappy?” Don't even mention the benefits of being vaccinated, focus on rewards that are everyday things (food, entertainment, hobby gear) that maybe he can bribe himself with.
posted by itesser at 6:06 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

If they like Krispy Kreme, you might tempt them by telling them that Krispy Kreme is offering free doughnuts for an entire year to anyone who has been vaccinated.
posted by forza at 6:19 PM on March 22, 2021 [10 favorites]

This seems like a sneaky backdoor tactic, but in aid of using anything that works, could you talk with him about (TRIGGER WARNING) the Texas Roadhouse CEO who committed suicide recently after suffering terribly from long term covid side effects? Something about that story (relatively young, successful man who worked hard and was overcome by terrible side effects from covid) seems like it would speak to men in his age bracket with the fears you're mentioning.
posted by theweasel at 7:17 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seeing everyone around you--meaning people you know and trust--get vaccinated also helps. Supposedly there are studies but I've also seen anecdata. As in, people post selfies and an acquaintance pings them and says "I wasn't sure but I saw yours and I just signed up!" So if your relative's circle (including you) is mostly going to go ahead you might see some movement from them as others become eligible.

Also one more factor: In my states getting appointments for eligible people is hard. If you are on the fence you probably would be happy to try once or twice then use the "couldn't find one" as an excuse. Someone not getting one now (and I know some hesitant people) may change when the barriers get lower.

If these both apply, these would both point to not overdoing it early. I do feel like the worst thing would be pushing them so hard they "research" the reasons not to get one (meaning cherry pick scary youtube videos) so they can argue with you.
posted by mark k at 7:25 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Don't push. There are risk factors to any medical procedure, and there may be problems that he is not willing to talk with you about.
Ask him to call his personal physician and get the straight answers on his own health and whether he should get one of the vaccines. Get information from the physician about influenza vaccinations and COVID-19 vaccinations going forward (information from the medical community, not rumor control).
Offer to help him get to the appointment and sit with him in the parking lot while waiting his turn. If he is stressed out he may not want to "celebrate" until a couple of days later.

Seconding that one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine may be less traumatic. I've had this conversation with my husband, who is leaning that way. Our youngest daughter and I qualified for and received our first Moderna vaccinations. I am not happy with the lower effectiveness rates for Johnson and Johnson (66.3 % vs 94.1 %) but if it will get him in the chair, so be it.
posted by TrishaU at 8:07 PM on March 22, 2021

I convinced my aunt to get the vaccine by using a combination of arguments. I think the primary argument I made was that the vaccine couldn't be worse than all the crap we consume on a day to day basis - like pop, junk food, etc. And also, it can't be worse than living down the road from the Love Canal environmental disaster area (pick your poison as far as the pollution in the area your relative lives in). What really is the worst possible outcome of getting the vaccine? You die? That's the same worst case outcome as getting covid. So far, the vaccine hasn't caused any deaths, at least statistically speaking. Honestly, the worst outcome of getting the vaccine at this point is that it doesn't work. That doesn't seem to be what's happening either, as the vaccines that have been approved are upwards of 95% effective. At the end of the day, if the solution to ending the pandemic is getting everyone vaccinated, sign me up. The life we had last year under covid restrictions was not worth living. I will do whatever it takes to get kids back in school, to be able to go to the gym, to be able to socialize with friends, to walk down the street without getting the stinkeye from passersby for not wearing a mask. I'll take the risks of the vaccine to get my life back. That argument was enough to convert my aunt from vaccine skeptic to vaccine appointment guru.

You can also throw in that the mRNA vaccines have actually been in development for years, and were just adapted for this particular illness. I find the science behind them fascinating.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 8:27 PM on March 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

I've been able to counter the "it was rushed" argument, though not from strongly resistant people, by pointing out that while the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 was developed quickly, the work on mRNA vaccines for coronaviruses that target the spike protein was already in the works, based on research on MERS and SARS. Here's a technical and a probably still too technical article about that for you, and a not at all technical TikTok about mRNA vaccines for your relative—you can explain to him that the general idea of fork hands was already understood, so all scientists had to do was refine the diagram (picture of fork) shown at the beginning.
posted by babelfish at 7:39 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I will say that I was among those at first who was not inclined to trust the success of the early vaccines too much. When Pfizer and Moderna were the first to publish the numbers from their trials, and those numbers were incredibly high, I wasn't sure if I believed it, especially given the fact that Trump was still president then and he'd made it clear how much his ego was riding on it, and how he felt about the importance of his ego versus silly things like science or truth or an independent FDA. But the fact that other vaccines have taken much longer (and some failed altogether), and that some of them have reported much lower numbers, while other numbers have come under a lot of scrutiny, actually made me feel better about the validity of the process. While in the meantime the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have data from tens or hundreds of millions of real-life cases, and the data are actually consistent with the absurdly high numbers those companies reported from their trials. A few hundred million people around the world have been getting the vaccines for a few months now, and not only have serious side effects not come up, but infection and hospitalization rates have gone way down in the places with high rates of vaccination, often despite holidays and relaxed restrictions. So at this point, I feel like not trusting the vaccines would be like not trusting the evidence in front of my eyes. (Note that this applies to the vaccines currently available in the US; the data on the Russian and Chinese vaccines have been less trustworthy imo, but I also haven't looked too much into it.)
posted by trig at 8:57 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I do this professionally. I have four main ways of interacting with people about this:

1) Assume the person is willing and move forward: "Have you had your shot yet?" "No? OK, let's call the call center together now on conference call and schedule. Do you need help with transportation?". Obviously the person can still decline, but this approach normalizes the whole thing and takes some of the charge out of the interaction.

2) Focus on the harms of COVID. For me I share specific experiences I've had as a nurse, but you could share examples of famous people or acquaintances that have been impacted. I say things like, "I've seen so many people who are my age in the ICU, it's horrible I've never seen anything like this before. I'm really excited there's a vaccine and we can finally beat this".

3) Provide factual safety information about how the vaccine was developed and approved so quickly: (throwing huge piles of money at the problem, using already completed research, completing different stages of the approval process simultaneously, establishing production infrastructure during the research process) but keep it brief - don't debate. One factoid I learned that I have repeated is these are actually the most researched vaccines we've ever had. Think about the study sizes & how many researchers around the world dropped what they were doing and worked on this.

4) Motivational Interviewing: for the very resistant, I explore their ambivalence in a guided away that emphasizes their motivation toward vaccination. So if the person is like, "I'm worried about long term side effects we don't know about yet", then reflect back the positive, healthy thing they are saying, without reflecting the dangerous part. I would reflect: "Your health is a priority, and you want to be safe." MI is a complex skill that takes time to develop, but anyone can try the key elements: Respect the person. Notice their ambivalence. Emphasize the healthy option they are considering. If your relative ends up being open to getting the vaccine, be sure you end the conversation with a specific plan (if appropriate, you can help get your relative scheduled for the shot)
posted by latkes at 10:32 AM on March 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and if the person hates going to the doctor you may want to be ready with a list of community vaccine sites that are physically outside of doctor's offices. For example in my town we have a mass vaccination site at the local sports arena.
posted by latkes at 10:36 AM on March 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Ask if it would help if you would book it for him and if it were a one-shot J&J with different technology and it was at a pharmacy or community center (assuming that is an option), not a doctor's office or hospital? Maybe if you remove some of the hassle barriers it might be less unappealing.
posted by *s at 10:37 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't think I saw it above, but, as part of the "it wasn't actually rushed" argument, one aspect of the clinical trials is that - unlike many other vaccines and therapies that might be in various stages of clinical trials - the prevalence (which would affect trials for therapies) and incidence (which would affect trials for vaccines) of COVID-19 has been so high that scientist are actually able to collect more data than they would under non-pandemic conditions.
posted by Pax at 2:59 AM on March 26, 2021

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