How to Convince Your Loved Ones to Get COVID Vaccine

Despite the Biden administration's repeated warnings about a "pandemic of the unvaccinated" and renewed efforts to convince people to get their jabs, millions of eligible Americans have yet to do so.

And with COVID-19 patients filling up hospitals across the U.S. amid a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, many Americans may find themselves increasingly frustrated by loved ones who are not vaccinated.

A recent poll found most unvaccinated Americans say they are unlikely to get the shots and a majority believe the available vaccines are ineffective against variants of the virus.

Government agencies and health officials have released as much valid and credible information to tackle vaccine misinformation and disinformation as they can, said Stacy Wood, a professor of marketing at North Carolina State University who has researched COVID vaccine promotion.

"Now, it's just a time for persuasion," Wood told Newsweek.

Experts say the first step in convincing a loved one to get the vaccine is understanding the reason behind it.

According to Wood, most unvaccinated Americans fall into three categories: the "vaccine apathetic," the "vaccine hesitant" and the "truly resistant."

People who are "vaccine apathetic" are not necessarily against vaccines in general, she explained, but simply do not view it as a priority.

Woman receives Covid vaccine
A registered nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a woman at the Corona High School gymnasium in the Riverside County city of Corona, California on January 15, 2021. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

"Either the pandemic has created real family stretches, it's busy at work, they need childcare, they've got older parents who need more help… they're heathy or they've already had a mild case of COVID, they might think they're fine and it's not the top of their to-do list," she said.

To convince those people to get vaccinated, their friends and family members need to essentially "incentivize them to put that back at the top of the list," Wood said.

Inundating those people with "scary" statistics can cause them to tune out, she said. "Rather, just say, 'I love you, I'm very concerned about the fact that you're not vaccinated, it is an anxiety for me. And so I would like to I would like you to consider doing this for me. And what can I do to help?'" Wood suggested.

Offers to babysit, to drive them to their vaccine appointment or treat them to lunch could convince them to go ahead, she said. Or they could offer to do something in exchange that the person has been wanting.

"Say, I'll join the gym like you've always wanted me to, whatever it is, offer to swap healthy behaviors," Wood said. "That's the kind of trade-making and emotional appeals that friends and family can make that, frankly, governments and health agencies never could."

Those who are worried about the efficacy of the virus or hesitant to get their shots for other medical or personal reasons are usually better served by speaking to someone they trust, Dr. Vincent Rajkumar, of the Mayo Clinic, told Newsweek.

Wood said those who are concerned about how fast the vaccine became available could be motivated by setting a date for when they will feel comfortable getting it.

"For these people, you may not convince them to do it at that moment, but it's all going to add up," she said.

Those who are against getting the vaccine for political or ideological reasons are the hardest group to convince, according to the experts.

"For truly resistant folks, I think the shorter the conversation, the better. So rather than getting into a big kind of debate about it, just say 'I love you a lot. And I really wish you were vaccinated' and then just leave it at that," Wood said.

That group is most likely to be convinced by other people with similar views, she said.

"If you can show them that important pastors in their church or religious leaders in their community are supporting it, or people that they really respect and admire," she said.

Another way they could be convinced is by the "fear of missing out," she said. For instances, if only vaccinated friends and family members are invited to events like birthday parties and upcoming holiday celebrations.

People can also be "moved" by cautionary tales about unvaccinated individuals who have become ill, Rajkumar said.

"If you can point to people that everybody knows, that's more powerful," Wood added.

But the most important thing is to approach a loved one with respect and without judgment, she said.

"The thing to do in all of these cases, is to be non-judgmental, and to really begin any conversation with emphasizing that the entire purpose is that you want them vaccinated because you love them," she added.

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