Each Vaccination May Convince Another Person to Get the Vaccine

Tim Flynn, PharmD, a patient care pharmacist and COVID-19 specialist at Albertsons-Safeway Intermountain Division in Boise, Idaho, administers a vaccine at curbside.

When you convince one patient to get a COVID-19 vaccine, you may convince a whole household, church pew, or workplace. That’s been the experience of Tim Flynn, PharmD, a patient care pharmacist and COVID-19 specialist at Albertsons-Safeway Intermountain Division in Boise, Idaho. The pharmacist has taken COVID-19 vaccines to rural Hispanic churches, workplaces, long-term care facilities, and mass vaccination events.

When Flynn brought the vaccine to a Hispanic church in rural Idaho, he found that many congregants had reservations about it. Families approached him one at a time with their questions.

“We would address each of their concerns, and then usually every single family member would choose to get vaccinated,” Flynn said. But the ripple effect didn’t end with that family, he adds. “Then you didn’t even have to have those conversations as much with the next family because they saw the others getting it.”

In fact, research shows that in the households of vaccinated people, 70% of the home’s residents are vaccinated. But the same percentage is true in the households of the unvaccinated: at least 70% have not received the vaccine.

Flynn has a simple approach to people who are not quite sure about the vaccine. First, he said, interview the patients. Find out what their specific concerns are, and then ask them if you can provide them with some more information on that issue.

“That’s the way you build trust—address their real concerns,” Flynn said. “Don’t just say, ‘I recommend you get this.’”

When the concern is that the vaccines are too new, Flynn explains that COVID-19 vaccines may be new, but this is not a new way of making a vaccine. Researchers already had a good sense about its safety.

If the emergency use authorization is a sticking point, the pharmacist ensures patients understand that the FDA review process didn’t skip any steps related to safety.

When potential patients express fears about long-term side effects, Flynn tells them what is already known about side effects based on the millions of people who have received COVID-19 vaccines and that long-term complications from the virus are much more severe and far more likely.

Practice Pearl

Talk to patients to learn their specific concerns about the vaccine. Ask them if you can share more information with them.

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That’s how he handled counseling a patient with type 2 diabetes and other immunocompromising conditions who was concerned about the possible long-term side effects of the vaccine.

“I took the time to explain what the side effects are and that the patient’s conditions were more of a reason to receive the vaccine because they are at higher risk of severe disease or complications from COVID-19,” said Flynn. The patient listened and eventually decided to get vaccinated.

Flynn says that making the time for one-to-one conversations that address a patient’s individual concerns is crucial. That helped at workplace vaccine clinics late in the vaccine rollout.

“Because most people have been vaccinated, we’re getting a much smaller turnout at these clinics and it’s mostly people who have been holding off,” Flynn said. “In an hour, we might vaccinate only five or six people, but it gives us the time to have 15-minute conversations with people and really address their concerns. And I think that really helps.”

Learn more about how to address specific patient concerns and Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence.