What to say to your unvaccinated loved ones

By Neil Brown, MD
Medically reviewed
August 20, 2021

Are you vaccinated for COVID-19 and wish some of your friends and loved ones would also get the vaccine? You’re not alone. 

Getting vaccinated is the number one way to slow the spread and prevent future mutations.

With nearly 45% of people in the U.S. still unvaccinated and the soaring Delta variant putting tens of thousands in the hospital, with states like Florida and Texas running out of beds, many are now deciding to get the vaccine. But, many also aren’t.

As a doctor and Chief Diagnosis Officer of K Health, I’ve heard from many patients and colleagues about how to approach and educate their loved ones who are unvaccinated. Our head of mental health Dr. David Harari also has some thoughts on how to approach the potentially awkward conversation.

Here are our tips for approaching the conversation and talking points.

How to approach the conversation

  1. Ask open-ended questions about how you can help them be more comfortable. Examples include, “How can I help you understand more about the vaccine?” or “Tell me more about where your mind is at when thinking about the vaccine.” Another good question is, “What are the good and not so good things about getting the vaccine?”). 
  2. Use empathetic, non-judgemental language, like “I can tell this is a very challenging decision for you and I appreciate you being open to discuss the topic.”
  3. Listen reflectively and summarize statements to let your loved one know they are being heard. After the respond to you, you can reiterate what they are saying before you go on. For example, “It sounds like what you are saying is…”
  4. Explain openly and honestly why it’s important to YOU. For example, you may expose our children to COVID, or put your own health at risk. 

Talking points to encourage your loved ones to get the vaccine 

  1. The data is in your favor. 4 billion individual shots have been given, and the rate of a severe reaction to the vaccine is very, very low. As of August 23, 2021 one of the COVID-19 vaccines is FDA approved.
  2. Once you’re vaccinated, your risk of getting severe COVID, being intubated or dying from COVID drops massively. Even if you do get a breakthrough infection, your chance of getting very sick and spreading it to others goes way down.
  3. COVID does not discriminate. Even if you’re young or have good general health, nothing is more protective than getting the vaccine. 
  4. By not getting the vaccine, you are putting everyone you love at risk, including me. Unvaccinated people have a greater chance of spreading it, to both unvaccinated and vaccinated. Unvaccinated people also are the reason why variants are able to mutate. 
  5. There are certain populations, like children, who are not eligible for vaccines so are more at risk. Not getting vaccinated increases your chance of being the one to spread COVID to a child.
  6. Socially, rules are changing and unvaccinated people will be affected. Many events now require daily testing for those who are unvaccinated. Offices are requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks or get daily tests. In New York unvaccinated people are now longer allowed to dine indoors!
  7. Ask yourself, do I want to get COVID? Because with the Delta variant, and future variants that will come about if people remain unvaccinated, there is a significant likelihood that you will.

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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Neil Brown, MD

With 20 years of ER experience, Dr. Brown has worked at top US hospitals including University of Illinois, Chicago and IU Health Arnett Hospital.