When speaking with people who respond to scientific information in a challenging manner, the most critical thing to remember is to stay calm. Refrain from simply talking over those with whom you're in conversation.
Unfortunately our objective scientific considerations are often not enough to persuade everyone to get the COVID vaccine. We face the challenge of convincing people that a medical intervention that’s stood the test of time, vaccines, is safe and effective. Vaccine insight, stemming from the Latin word for “cow” due to Dr. Edward Jenner’s work with cowpox and smallpox in rural England, has been around for hundreds of years. The last few decades we’ve seen an unprecedented attack on this knowledge. Many of us in science and medicine struggle to grasp this resistance.
The pandemic has impacted all specialties in the medical field. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pathologist or a plastic surgeon or a physiatrist, all clinicians and their respective specialties agree on the importance of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Yet, for many clinicians, advocating for vaccines publicly has been met with ant-vaccine arguments. Here are 3 tips for how to respond:
1. Stay calm.
Many of the anti-vaccine messages aim to bring forth emotion in the public, especially fear. Remain calm when talking with patients, friends, family, and neighbors.
2. Know your audience.
When sharing key vaccine information, identify talking points appropriate for the community you’re talking with. If you can align science with cultural identities, you’re more likely to persuade your target audience. If you’re appealing to your audience in a way that ties their identity with the science, your message will be more effective.
3. Engage with patients and others on a regular basis. Be consistent.
Promoting science is needed now more than ever as we work to end the pandemic. Confronting anti-vaccine campaigns doesn’t mean being louder. Stay calm, know your audience, and be consistent.
This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.