As the pace of vaccinations accelerates and a majority of the adult population takes their shot (and down the road their booster shot), the people who choose not to get the shot form a small but significant majority.
Many of them want to talk about their choice, to justify their decision, particularly when surrounded by a group of people who have already received their first injection or are registered to do so.
The rationale is often a hodgepodge of pretzel logic, cherrypicked facts and a litany of “I heard,” “I read,” “I was told that” and “I believe” statements, all of it impossible to challenge without sparking an argument. This is particularly difficult when it’s coming from family members and close friends.
The explanations all seem to be to be variations on a theme that ends with “I don’t wanna and you can’t make me.”
That’s the most straightforward and most honest response. If you believe in individual rights and personal freedoms, that’s an answer everyone can understand and respect, regardless of where it comes from.
The people who choose not to get vaccinated should not be shamed or persecuted. Nobody changes their mind when someone is shouting at them or ridiculing them. If you’re sincerely trying to change the mind of someone who is hesitant or outright refusing to be vaccinated, start with listening first and then asking questions.
Why do they feel that way? Where did they get their information? What would need to happen or change for to them get vaccinated?
Remind them that you’re just trying to understand their perspective, instead of interrogating them.
Don’t tell them why you’ve chosen to get vaccinated unless they ask first. If they don’t want to talk about it at all, ask them if you can have a moment of their time to explain why you got vaccinated or are planning to.
Make it personal.
In my case, I’m getting vaccinated for my 18-year-old stepson who was born with a heart defect. If he were to get COVID-19, the likelihood of him getting sick and requiring hospitalization is probably much higher than me. He’s spent enough of his life hooked to machines keeping him alive (I wasn’t there but I’ve seen the pictures). He’s fine now and I want him to stay that way. I could never forgive myself if I was the one who brought COVID-19 home to him.
I’m getting vaccinated for my mother-in-law and my mother, since both already have underlying health issues that affect their breathing. I want them to be able to hug me and spend time with me without worrying if they will get sick because of me.
And if that’s not selfish enough, I’m getting vaccinated because if that’s what it takes for me to be able to not have to wear that damn mask at the store and at work, I’ll do it.
If that’s all if I have to do so that I can go to a concert or a hockey game or a theatre performance this fall and winter, to be close to a lot of other people sharing a communal experience guilt and worry free, I’ll do it.
If that’s all I have to do in order to hug my two beautiful friends recovering from cancer treatment and tell them how much they mean to me, I’ll do it.
If that’s all I have to do so I can get on a plane and take my wife on a well-deserved tropical holiday after she finishes her social work degree, I’ll do it.
I’m getting vaccinated because I trust the doctors and I know vaccines are a low-risk, high-reward way to keep my family and me safe.
All of us, regardless of our beliefs, are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect the people we love. Taking a needle in the arm is a small but significant sacrifice, like driving safely at the posted speed limit.
You still might be in a horrible accident but the chances are much less and you won’t be the one who caused needless suffering to yourself, your friends, your family and people you’ve never met who love their life and their friends and family as much as you do.
It’s OK to resent getting vaccinated just like it’s OK to resent paying taxes. It’s OK to think getting vaccinated is as stupid as getting a speeding ticket. It’s OK to believe getting vaccinated is as big a waste of time as standing in line to get a new driver’s licence.
Doesn’t matter what the reasons are or if they’re right or not. We all want our freedoms back and we all want to be together again.
The right thing to do is to get vaccinated.