Vaccine Hesitancy Hits Close to Home for a Community Pharmacist

Pharmacist Priya Patel, COVID-19 immunizer at CVS Pharmacy in Boston, Massachusetts.

Pharmacist Priya Patel, COVID-19 immunizer at CVS Pharmacy in Boston, Massachusetts.

Priya Patel, PharmD, expected to hear questions, concerns, and a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines from patients at CVS Pharmacy in Boston, Massachusetts. But she took for granted that the people closest to her would be as eager to get vaccinated as she was.

“I casually mentioned the vaccine to my parents, and they said, ‘Oh, no, we’re not getting it. At least not for a couple of years,’” Patel recalled.

The pharmacist was shocked.

Her own parents had picked up a lot of their vaccine information from social media. In fact, they tried to discourage Patel from getting the vaccine due to fears about it causing infertility. The couple also cited many other common concerns about the vaccine: it hadn’t been studied enough; the testing process was rushed; and the long-term side effects were still unknown.

Patel began to work on them.

“Before anything else, it took a while to convince [my parents] to stop getting their information from Facebook, which is not a reliable source,” Patel said. She showed her parents where they could find credible information about COVID-19 vaccines, such as the CDC website.

“You won’t always be the one who’s giving patients information about the vaccine,” said Patel, “so it’s important to point them to credible resources where they can get accurate information on their own.”

Over the next month or two, during multiple phone calls, Patel chipped away at her parents’ misconceptions and fears about the vaccine. Next, she appealed to their sense of altruism.

“I told them not only are they protecting themselves but also others, like my grandmother, who has heart problems and is in and out of the hospital,” Patel said. She went so far as to tell her parents that if they decided not to get vaccinated, they should stop seeing her grandmother.

Ultimately, Patel’s parents decided to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

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When someone is hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, find out why. You may find a way around their concerns and help them decide to get vaccinated.

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Because Patel’s parents had flu-like symptoms after the two doses in the primary series, it took some convincing for them to agree to get the first booster dose. Patel is still working on them to get the second booster dose.

In addition to getting her parents and grandmother protected against COVID-19, the experience reaped other rewards, too, Patel said.

“After seeing what worked with my parents—walking through the responses to each one of their concerns—I keep coming back to that approach [with patients]. It helps patients settle down, and it gets them to come back for their next doses, too,” she said.

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