Community Pharmacist Sways Patient With Impartial Advice

Pharmacist Zoua Yang vaccinates a patient against COVID-19 at a CVS Pharmacy in Schofield, Wisconsin.

Pharmacist Zoua Yang vaccinates a patient against COVID-19 at a CVS Pharmacy in Schofield, Wisconsin.

No one is a lost cause when it comes to vaccine contemplation. That’s what Zoua Yang, PharmD, has found in talking with scores of contemplative, hesitant, and even resistant patients since COVID-19 vaccines became available.

At a CVS Pharmacy in Schofield, Wisconsin, where she was in practice when the COVID-19 vaccines first became available, Yang encountered a patient who did not want to get vaccinated, and his decision seemed inconvertible. His wife was a nurse on a unit caring for patients with COVID-19. Vaccinated herself, the nurse had been begging her husband to get immunized, too.

“It was quite surprising to me that, being married to someone who had witnessed the dangers of COVID-19 firsthand, he would be so hesitant,” Yang said. “But he was adamant. It was, ‘Absolutely not. No, no, no.’”

But Yang didn’t write him off. “I wanted to understand where he was coming from,” she said.

Calmly and respectfully, Yang asked questions and listened. She learned that the patient felt the vaccine was too new, and he simply wasn’t willing to take a chance on it, even though he’d learned through his wife, in painful detail, the devastation that COVID-19 could cause.

To engage with the patient, Yang explained to him that while the COVID-19 vaccine was new, vaccines had been around for a very long time. She reminded him that if he and his children had gone to public school, they had all received many vaccines. This one simply protects against a different illness.

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Yang then offered her simple explanation of how vaccines work. “It’s just showing your body how to build an army to defend itself against this virus when it needs to,” she said.

Additionally, Yang explained the benefits and risks of the vaccine and compared those with the risks of COVID-19. Eventually, the patient decided to get vaccinated.

“I think it took hearing it from an outside person. I’m a health care provider, but I am not his wife,” Yang said. “The same thing happens in my family. A family member asks my opinion about something and then I’ll hear them go ask a different pharmacist the same question.”

Yang brings this cool-headed, respectful approach to all patients who are not yet ready to get a COVID-19 vaccine. While at CVS Health, she led the effort to vaccinate thousands of patients in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan at 500 clinics. During this time, she’s seen patients who initially didn’t believe that COVID-19 was a true threat and then finally decide to get vaccinated. Now she’s taken her COVID-19 vaccine experience to her next venture. This fall, she’ll begin administering vaccines at her own independent pharmacy, Wausau Family Pharmacy.

“School is starting soon,” Yang said, “so I’ll be pushing back-to-school COVID-19 and flu shots for teachers and children who haven’t gotten them yet.”

Resources to help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination and Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confidence microsite.