As COVID-19 vaccines become more accessible, Americans overwhelmingly say they most trust their own doctor for information about vaccination. To help physicians build confidence in the vaccines, the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials have released a short vaccine communication guide based on recent polling and focus groups that have identified language that Americans say would be most compelling. The guide also incorporates recommendations from the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Titled “From Concern to Confidence: How Physicians Can Build Trust in COVID-19 Vaccines,” the four-page document offers recommendations and sample language that can help allay vaccine concerns to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated. The six recommended actions for doctors to help build vaccine confidence are:
- Lead by example. Get vaccinated and encourage your staff to be vaccinated.
- Prepare your health care team, pharmacy, and staff. Ask your staff members if they’d be willing to speak with their colleagues and patients about why they got vaccinated. All staff should be equipped to answer basic questions about Covid vaccines.
- Share educational materials widely.
- During patient visits, make COVID-19 vaccination a new vital sign. Ask every patient what their vaccination plan is. For those who say they will take it, make sure they know how and where to schedule an appointment. If they say they’re not sure, discuss their concerns and answer their questions.
- Partner with your health department, employers, and others to engage with community members.
- Consider sending a letter or email to your patients. (Sample language is provided.)
The guide also provides samples of effective messaging, including specific language to address concerns about side effects, worries about the rapid development of the vaccines, and misinformation. Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, President and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation, said, “In our polls and focus groups, we’ve heard from people of different ages, ethnicities, income levels, and political parties. One thing that’s consistent is that physicians are the most effective messengers for people who are still deciding if they’ll get vaccinated.”
Michael Fraser, CEO of ASTHO, said, “Physicians and other medical professionals can play a key role in ending the pandemic. We’re distributing this short guide to every state health official in the hope that it will prompt productive discussions so people can make the decision that’s right for them and their loved ones.”
Much of the suggested language in the guide has been developed from polling and focus groups the de Beaumont Foundation has conducted with pollster Frank Luntz. For research insights and sample language, visit ChangingTheCOVIDConversation.org.