Community Pharmacist Builds Rapport With Families Through Ongoing Vaccine Dialogue

Pharmacist Talethea Golden with her son after his COVID-19 vaccination at Walgreens in Atlanta, Georgia.

Pharmacist Talethea Golden with her son after his COVID-19 vaccination at Walgreens in Atlanta, Georgia.

Talethea Golden, PharmD, doesn’t expect to win over the vaccine-contemplative after a single conversation. When patients who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine are willing to talk, Golden works on them a little more each time she sees them at the Walgreens Pharmacy where she practices in Atlanta, Georgia.

One young man told Golden that he didn’t feel he needed the vaccine because COVID-19 didn’t seem to make young adults very sick. He added that the vaccine had come out so fast that he wasn’t sure it was safe anyway.

Golden shared information with the man about the vaccine’s safety and how it worked. She then told him that she and her two small children were vaccinated and explained why she had chosen the vaccine for herself and her family. She noted that even though COVID-19 may not make him seriously ill, he could get the virus and pass it to someone else who may become seriously ill.

“All I can do is listen to understand their perspective and correct any misunderstandings they may have,” Golden said of people who are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccination. “I’m not there to push any agenda. I can only share with them [the reasons] why I got the vaccine and how I know that it works.”

Once Golden has made her case, if patients are still on the fence, she makes sure they know where else they can turn for reliable information about vaccines. Then she drops the subject. She finds that this no-pressure approach makes patients more likely to come back with more questions or eventually to get the vaccine.

Practice Pearl

You may not win a patient over in a single conversation. Build rapport with patients over multiple visits so that they might eventually change their mind.

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The young man did eventually return to the pharmacy, after a family member got COVID-19. “He said, ‘I think you were right. I better go ahead and get that vaccine,’” Golden said.

A perk of speaking with vaccine-contemplative patients over multiple visits is that it allows time for building rapport. Oftentimes, once they decide to get vaccinated, they come back in with family members shortly thereafter.

“This is probably the most rewarding thing about administering COVID-19 vaccines: when I’ve given someone the vaccine, and they come back later with more family members for me to vaccinate,” Golden said. “It’s very encouraging.”

Golden is counting on that to happen with a patient she recently won over. She had been speaking to the woman for a while about getting vaccinated, but the patient refused—until her brother was infected with the COVID-19 virus and passed it on to their mother.

The woman returned to the pharmacy to get the vaccine from Golden, who asked whether the woman’s brother would be coming in soon, too.

“Every time she comes in, I give her more information to pass onto her brother. So, we are still working on that.”

Resources to Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.