How can we convince COVID-19 vaccine skeptics to get the shot?

Posted at 11:59 PM, Aug 06, 2021

Millions of Americans say they won’t get their COVID-19 shot despite rising case numbers and pleas from loved ones, health care workers and politicians. How can they be convinced?

We asked psychologist Dr. Stuart Bassman, who said personal relationships with strong foundations of trust and compassion are the best bet to change someone's mind.

Bassman said it’s important to be understanding and patient about vaccine-hesitant friends’ fears, and to understand how they arrived at their position.

He said many turn to social media to seek out information confirming their existing emotional beliefs, which might be tinged with anxiety over how quickly the vaccine was developed and approved.

Therefore, it’s important to meet them on an emotional level. Facts and scientific evidence don’t mean much if you can’t compassionately address their feelings about the vaccine, which has been safely administered to hundreds of millions of people.

“Say to a family member, ‘I know this is scary and frightening for you,’” Bassman said. “‘I know you’re afraid.’”

It’s also important to be patient, he added. Relationships take time. Empathy, even for a position you might find frustrating or hard to understand, is a must.

“Instead of trying to get the person to change, you can’t do that,” he said. “What you can do is imagine that you’re with them in their fear.”