How to have a conversation with a friend who’s unsure about the Covid vaccine

How To Have A Conversation With A Friend Who’s Unsure About The Covid Vaccine How To Have A Conversation With A Friend Who’s Unsure About The Covid Vaccine
Vaccines (Alamy/PA)
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By Lauren Taylor, PA

There’s a bigger push than ever to persuade younger people to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

A new social media campaign launches too — including on TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram — urging uptake of the vaccine among young adults.

So if one of your friends is unsure about getting the vaccine, what can you do to help ease their mind?

Check where they get their information from 

Professor Susan Michie, health psychology and director of the centre for behaviour change at UCL, says misinformation about Covid vaccines is a recognised problem globally, but “especially misinformation from the US and the UK”.

The anti-vax sentiment is said to be strongest amongst people who get their news through social media, so naturally, many are young. Although it’s important to say that not every vaccine-hesitant person is a conspiracy theorist – of course, it’s reasonable to have worries about the unknown.


Michie says: “Reassure about side-effects of the vaccine and explain how it works and dispel any myths.” Side-effects seem to be the biggest subject of misinformation, as well as what exactly is inside a vaccine.

Try not to patronise

Sorting fact from fiction isn’t entirely straightforward in the all-consuming world of social media – especially if friends or people you admire are sharing the information. So try to understand where the other person is coming from and do listen to them – even if you completely disagree with everything they’re saying. Instead, ask them about what’s in the video, graphic or article they’ve seen and get them to think more deeply about where it’s originally come from, who could have created it and why it might be shared.

People queuing at a vaccination centre in Dublin (Damien Eagers/PA)

Suggest they talk it through with someone they trust

It can be easy to go down a rabbit hole of scary-sounding information online, without actually talking through worries with someone. And sometimes a friend isn’t the best person to try and counteract their beliefs or worries.

“Suggest they raise any concerns with someone they respect and who will listen to and address their concerns in a supportive way, e.g. a GP, faith leader or someone in their family network,” says Michie.


Make sure they understand that young people can get seriously ill too

NHS medical director of primary care and deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, Dr Nikki Kanani, says: “While thousands of people continue to come forward every week, we must not forget that there are more than 5,000 people who are seriously ill in hospital with Covid and more than a fifth of those are young people.”

Michie says to share accessible information about the relative benefits and risks versus getting infected with Covid, “especially that they may be incapacitated for months, and the increasing evidence about the dangers of long Covid in young people – with the possibility of long-term damage to organs, including the brain.”


Explain how it helps others, including their loved ones

“Stress how vaccination is not just about protecting them but reduces the chance of them being infected, even without knowing, and passing on the infection to loved ones, friends, community including those vulnerable at risk of serious disease or even dying,” says Michie.

Remind them the vaccine is the best way to prevent more lockdowns

No one wants to go back into lockdown or have any further restrictions placed on our freedoms, and returning to normality will take a huge collective effort. But it may help to focus on the positives and all the fun things we’re now able to get back to doing.

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