After nearly a full year of living with the pandemic’s devastating effects, 71% of Americans report a willingness to get the vaccine for COVID-19. But is that enough to turn the tide? Experts estimate that we need to have at least 75% of the population vaccinated before we reach “herd immunity.”
Who is opposed to getting the vaccine?
Specific segments of the population are either reluctant or entirely opposed to receiving the vaccine. Vaccine acceptance tends to be lower in younger adults who are less educated and survive on lower income levels. Several recent polls found the following groups to be most hesitant:
- People of color (Black, Hispanic, Native American)
- Immigrants (particularly those who are undocumented)
- Conservative, white evangelicals
- Rural residents
- Adults aged 30 to 49
- Essential workers (33% of all essential workers are hesitant)
- Health care workers (29% of healthcare workers are hesitant)
Why are these groups hesitant to receive the vaccine?
The speed with which the vaccine was authorized, misinformation in social media, the tepid response of political leaders, and a painful legacy of health care discrimination, exploitation, and experimentation on minority communities all contribute to the vaccine hesitancy we see today.
Here are 4 strategies that may ease vaccine hesitancy in caregivers.
1. Respect all beliefs. We hear a lot about combatting vaccine misinformation with facts. But, previous research into parents of school-age children with vaccine hesitancy has proven that may not be the best strategy. We now know it’s nearly impossible to convince someone to change his or her belief about vaccines—whether that belief is rooted in fact or not. Attempting to correct misperceptions tends to make people feel as if their beliefs are being dismissed. Piling on the “facts” is a strategy that can backfire and make negative views of vaccines worse.
Rather than refute someone’s beliefs, it’s better to say something like, “There’s a lot of information out there, and there are still a lot of unknowns. Let me tell you what I know.” That kind of reply helps people feel heard and respected, making it more likely they will trust and believe you.
2. Find the right role model. Humans are social creatures and can be heavily influenced by the behaviors in their social circles. But, keep in mind, role models will be different for each person. The person who inspires Barbara, a 56-year-old white Baptist caregiver to get the vaccine may be completely different from the role model who inspires Brianna, a 29-year-old Hispanic American caregiver. If you have a trusted role model in your organization, ask that person to talk to vaccine-hesitant employees one-on-one about why he or she got (or is willing to get) the vaccine. If you have multiple employees in your organization with vaccine hesitancy, reach out to trusted community or religious leaders to speak to the group. This can easily be done via a Zoom call
3. Offer paid time off. For some, the reluctance to get the vaccine may boil down to simple economics. Many caregivers do not have paid sick time off. There may be fear that a day off to get the vaccine could turn into two to three days off recovering from the side effects. Going two to three days without pay may not be an option for some.
- Offer caregivers paid time off to get the vaccine. Depending on where you live and how the vaccine rollout is going in your area, it may or may not require an entire day off to get the vaccine. Encourage caregivers to schedule their vaccine on a day that comes before a scheduled day off. For example, if the caregiver is off Tuesday, suggest she try to get the vaccine on Monday. That way, if she has side effects the next day, it will not interfere with her income.
- Offer paid time off to recover from the side effects. Create a campaign to promote the idea that caregivers who get vaccinated are heroes. Then, give the hero a paid day off to recover from getting the vaccine. The “Hero Day” may be most welcome following the second dose when symptoms are more likely to occur. If you roll out a campaign like this, be sure to stagger when caregivers get vaccinated, so you don’t have all your heroes at home on the same day!
4. Offer an incentive. Another approach is to pay caregivers to get the vaccine. Lidl, a discount supermarket chain, offers all its employees $200 in extra pay if they get a COVID-19 vaccination. Some hospitals have offered free breakfast or gift cards. Target pays for four hours of pay and reimburses up to $15 for people who must use Lyft service to get to the vaccination location.
What are other agencies doing?
In a recent survey of more than 100 home health providers by the Home Health Care News, just four said that their organization mandates staff vaccinations. About 62% of the respondents said their organizations are encouraging or incentivizing vaccinations.
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