Training has helped patient-facing healthcare workers address vaccine concerns.
When COVID-19 vaccines were developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, initial reception was mixed, with many individuals concerned about their safety, in light of their quick development.
Now that the vaccines have been out for more than a year and 81% of U.S. citizens over the age of 5 have at least one dose, Lisa Doggett, senior medical director for HGS AxisPoint Health, notes that speed of development isn't as much a hindrance for individuals considering the vaccine. Rather, it's concerns about the safety of the vaccine stemming from misinformation and confirmation bias, which is defined as the tendency to interpret new evidence that confirms what someone already believes to be true.
Doggett has led special training sessions for patient-facing healthcare workers to help them feel confident when addressing patients who are hesitant about getting vaccinated.
"We aren't good at changing minds, and unfortunately, people that are fearful of vaccines will often latch onto stories that are outliers," she said. "Sometimes stories are so far-fetched they can't be true, but they seem true to someone who's trying to believe the vaccines are unsafe."
Reception of the training has been positive, and Doggett said that the health system has rolled it out to others across the country. While they have factual information to provide, those who participate in the training also know how to respond to someone resistant to getting vaccinated.
"We really focus on engaging conversations with patients so [we're] asking them questions with respect to curiosity to understand what's driving their decisions around vaccines," Doggett explained. "We don't launch into a lecture; we ask permission to share information, we check in, we ask for feedback."
For conversations like these, the patient-physician relationship can have a significant impact, she said. However, she does encourage healthcare workers to have reasonable expectations and understand that not all patients will change their mind.
With current vaccination efforts, the biggest concern should be getting individuals boosted and ensuring that children are getting the initial vaccinations, she said.
"At this point, only about a third of kids in the 5 to 11 age group have received one dose of the vaccine," she said. "Their parents may be vaccinated, but I think this is a crowd where they can be supported to make the healthy choice and get their kids vaccinated."
“We really focus on engaging conversations with patients so [we're] asking them questions with respect to curiosity to understand what's driving their decisions around vaccines. We don't launch into a lecture; we ask permission to share information, we check in, we ask for feedback.”
Lisa Doggett, senior medical director, HGS AxisPoint Health
Currently 81% of U.S. citizens over the age of 5 have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
Confirmation bias—believing information that aligns with things you already believe—and the spread of misinformation are the main hinderances for individuals hesitant to get vaccinated.