By now, more than 149 million Americans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and know how easy it to show up to a local site and get the shot.
The harder part for some is convincing relatives, particularly parents and grandparents, who are hesitant to get the vaccine. It's especially concerning as older adults are at a greater risk of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19 if they catch the disease, according to the CDC.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction, but now we are getting to people who are harder to reach. They might be nervous or resistant," said Bill Walsh, vice president of communications for AARP, which hosts a COVID-19 tele-town hall for members every two weeks answering questions and dispelling myths.
"Those are tough cases, but what we can do is start by talking about the facts," he told TMRW.
While everyone's motivations for skipping the vaccine are different, experts agree that it's important to have the chat with loved ones who still haven't been vaccinated.
1. Acknowledge their concern, but then share facts
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told TMRW to start the conversation by verbally acknowledging your loved one's concerns.
"For instance, you can say, 'Oh dad, I understand you are concerned about this,'" he said. "Affirm it. All of a sudden the older person feels more comfortable and you are respecting their concern. The next thing you can say is, 'What has you bothered?'"
After finding out the concern and patiently listening, Schaffner said if you're lucky, it's sometimes as easy as providing the hesitant person with the facts.
"If they're worried about side effects, you can tell them the trials were done. They didn't cut any corners. By now 150 million doses have been given, and doctors are watching the safety very carefully."
2. Appeal to their sense of independence
The older a person is, the more likely they are to have a tough battle with COVID-19 and potentially long-term side effects.
Brain fog, one of the long list of symptoms, is also especially detrimental for older adults who already have memory issues, said Anne Sansevero, a geriatric nurse practitioner and founder of HealthSense, a New York City-based care management consultancy.
“If older people value their independence and guard it, they really should get the vaccination because COVID could potentially affect their independence," she said.
3. Help them make an appointment
Older Americans were among the first who were allowed to sign up for vaccine appointments, but using a hodgepodge of online scheduling technology to find and book appointments can be daunting or a nuisance, causing some people to skip the vaccine.
"Make the appointment for them," Sansevero said. "It's essential and they're not going to do it for themselves."
4. Appeal to their civic mindedness
Staying home or barely going out in public still doesn't protect your elderly relative from getting or spreading the disease.
“With the vaccine, people will say, 'I am not going to transmit it or I wont be seeing many people. They might say I have a weak immune response,'" Sansevero said. "It is still much more effective in preventing the disease (than) not getting vaccinated."
Not only does getting vaccinated help reduce the spread, but it lessens the burden on health care workers.
"Your health care workers have already been hit so hard caring for COVID patients, especially if the older adult is in an area where ERs are getting stressed out," Sansevero said. "The resources are stretched thin. Appeal to their civic mindedness."
5. You don't want to be left out
With so many Americans getting vaccinated, Dr. Schaffner recommends reminding elderly relatives who are hesitant that this is the next step in getting back to the life they enjoyed before the pandemic.
"You can tell them that a lot of your friends have gotten it. We in your family have gotten it as well," he said. "And we thought it was safe enough that we intend to get the grandchildren vaccinated as soon as it's available to them."
6. Use time with the grandkids as leverage
It's a tough one, but it works.
“That’s a very powerful one. Most elderly people, they've had a year of very severe isolation. Whether they have been in facilities or their own homes, they have been cautious," Sansevero said. "For my mother-in-law, that was her main reason for getting vaccinated.”
And if they refuse, tell them they'll need to wear a mask next time you and the grandkids visit to not only keep themselves safe, but also the children.