Developing three vaccines against COVID-19 in a relatively short amount of time was monumental. But what might end up being equally Herculean: convincing everyone to get vaccinated.
Studies show that Americans have varying levels of hesitancy about receiving a COVID-19 shot depending upon their ethnic background, geographical location, and political affiliation, among other factors. Add in rampant misinformation surrounding the vaccines, and it becomes difficult to educate patients and help them discern fact from fiction.
Pharmacists, though, are in a prime position to ease patients’ concerns. They are among the most accessible professionals of the healthcare team and highly trusted, consistently achieving high rankings in public confidence polls. And as drug experts, they have an opportunity to advance patients’ knowledge and understanding of the vaccines’ safety and efficacy. When speaking with patients, it could help to keep these three main points about the vaccines in mind.
1. The COVID-19 vaccines underwent a rigorous testing process.
The speed with which the vaccines were created does not mean they were developed haphazardly. Scientists had been studying related coronaviruses for years and put that knowledge to use when making the COVID-19 vaccines. They were rigorously tested through a series of human clinical trials, which included tens of thousands of study participants. And the vaccines underwent further evaluation for distribution via FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization process. Even now the vaccines are still being analyzed through post-authorization monitoring.
2. It’s better to reach herd immunity through vaccination rather than infection.
First, risking COVID-19 infection is dangerous and a surefire way to increase the devastation the virus has already wrought. We still don’t fully understand why some who are infected are asymptomatic while others are hospitalized or die. In addition, long term complications from the infection are just now beginning to be studied. Immunization not only lessens the risk of severe illness, but it also protects those who cannot get vaccinated, such as the immunocompromised. Learn more about herd, or “community” immunity here.
3. The vaccines are safe and they work.
As noted above, misconceptions run amok about the COVID-19 vaccines (for example, none of them will make you sick with coronavirus or alter your DNA). You can also assure patients that each vaccine has a high efficacy rate, both against symptomatic and severe infection. And if you’ve gotten vaccinated, share your story. People report they are more likely to get vaccinated if someone they know and trust has already done so.
NABP recently reaffirmed its confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines and continually updates information for health care providers and consumers. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that facts really do matter, and sharing knowledge can save lives. Maybe a mass vaccination effort does not have to be so Herculean after all.