As we continue to encourage more and more South Carolinians to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, we ask those who are fully vaccinated to have open and honest conversations with their friends and family who have not received their shots. Vaccine hesitancy is real and it's expected. We understand that some people have a lot of questions. As South Carolina's public health agency, we continue to provide current, factual, science-based information about the vaccines. But sometimes a candid conversation about the vaccine between two friends is the best way to share information.
Celebrities, doctors, and local influencers aren't always the best people to encourage those in your community to get the vaccine. You know your community and your family members, and you are often the best-equipped person to talk with them in ways that they understand.
The Health Action Alliance provides tips for starting a conversation about COVID-19 vaccines:
- Listen more than you talk. This is a conversation, not a debate. It’s not your job to convince people to get vaccinated. Rather, you’re sharing information to help them make their decision. Be positive, inviting and respectful. Acknowledge “the choice is yours to make with your doctor or healthcare provider.”
- Lead with empathy. Respect people’s concerns and acknowledge that it’s OK for everyone—even you—to have questions about vaccines. Don’t talk down to people, lecture or make people feel guilty. Instead, be understanding, positive and hopeful.
- Facts about safety matter. Don’t just say “the science is solid.” Provide facts about the safety and efficacy of vaccines using the talking points provided below. Remember, you shouldn’t give medical advice, so encourage people with tough or detailed questions to talk with their doctor or healthcare provider. Finally, be sure to speak plainly and in a manner everyone will understand.
- Emotions are important. Show how vaccinations can help us get back to the things we love, like connecting with others, spending time with family and friends, traveling and going to events. Some people may feel fear or mistrust. Listen for these feelings and share facts to help people work through their concerns and frustration.
- Be inviting. As more people get vaccinated, ask them to share their stories with others. Hearing from someone who’s already been vaccinated is one of the best ways to put others at ease. Celebrate the people who have taken this step for their health and the health of others.
- Be authentic. If you’re comfortable, share why you decided to get vaccinated, and why vaccines are important to you and your family.
Starting the conversation can be hard. To help, we've compiled a list of conversation starters that may help you bring up the topic of COVID-19 vaccination with your friends, employees, loved ones and community members.
- “I’m so excited the vaccines are here. I got mine as soon as I could. Were you excited to get yours?”
- Bring up that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when you get the chance. Knowing that someone in their life is vaccinated and trusts the vaccines may be all that someone needs to get their own vaccination.
- If you are in a conversation with someone who is sharing misinformation about the vaccine, you could start with something like, “Would you let me share some information about the vaccines with you?”
- Gently redirect the person to verified information sources and explain things from a scientific perspective, what has evidence and what does not. DHEC and the CDC are good resources for factual, science-based information.
- Make it an empowering message: “It might seem like there’s nothing we can do about COVID-19, but getting my vaccine helps me feel that I’ve done my part. You can’t control anyone else, but you can help keep you and your family safe by getting the vaccine.”
- Assume they are going to get vaccinated: “Let me know when you’re getting vaccinated and I’ll go with you!”
- Detail your personal vaccine experience, along with the location and how you made your appointment. “I didn’t realize how easy it would be to get my vaccine. I made my appointment ___________ and went to ____________. And there are many places now where you can simply show up and get your shot.”
- “I care about you, and I want to make sure that you are staying safe. Have you gotten your vaccine? Do you need me to help you schedule your vaccine?”
- Start from a place of true empathy and show your concern for their health and their future by making sure they are vaccinated.
- Find common ground – if you know you both have children or know that you share a health condition use that as a way to bring up vaccines: “I got vaccinated for COVID-19 the other day. It’s just one less thing I have to worry about.”