Case in Point, COVID-19 Vaccines

Premier Pulse     March 2021

Reeves_HS_350x350By Matthew Reeves, DO, MBA, president, Premier Health Group; system vice president, value services, Premier Health

Vaccine hesitancy is not a new phenomenon. However, it is shifting. When I was in practice in the early 2000s, most of the vaccine hesitant patients/consumers were the parents of young children who feared the development of autism or some other adverse outcome of the vaccine in question. Now, and from my perspective, the vaccine hesitant are mostly adults and, oddly, some from the very fields of science and research that should provide an understanding. The fact that they are mostly adults is not surprising given the COVID-19 vaccine is intended for the adult population and we are not lining up children to administer shots. However, the fact that we see hesitancy or resistance from folks educated in health care and related sciences is surprising.

The primary driver of this hesitancy is mostly a lack of confidence and trust in the developed vaccines. We’re told it takes years to develop a vaccine due to the very complex processes involved. So, how could these two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines be developed in under one year and be deemed safe? Well, there’s a logical explanation for this; the mRNA platform has been under development for approximately 10 years and is more easily and rapidly adaptable to new viruses, thus the benefit of the platform. Plus, genetic composition of the virus was published quickly after its discovery. Further, Phase I, II and III trials were conducted in an overlapping design. All the while, the manufacturing of the vaccines took place in parallel. However, that’s NOT the point of this commentary. Yes, we can hit folks over the head with an abundance of great data, but data is not necessarily what our audience needs or desires.

What is it then that they thirst for? As a physician, I’ve adhered to the importance of being a good listener. Listening, really listening, is so much more than hearing. Listening is an active, not passive, engagement. We need to understand and fully address the needs, thoughts and fears of the questioner. Seeking to first understand is as important as it is to provide data. Yes, data in relatable form and fashion is very important. However, sometimes the inquisitor is not in search of data, but just to be understood. If we can get to that space with our audience, we will have real engagement and can begin to move forward together as a supportive society with unified goals, and maybe, just maybe, the reassurance of normalcy...

As always, I’d love to hear what you think. Yes, I’ll really listen…

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