Unsure About the COVID-19 Vaccine? Talk to Your Family Doctor

Doctors’ Notes

Real stories by real family physicians

by Dr. Jennifer Hanna

About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Hanna
Jennifer M. Hanna, DO, is a family physician who practices at the outpatient family medicine office and resident clinic at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Michigan. She also teaches medical students and trains residents as a core faculty physician in the department of family medicine.

For family doctors, talking about the importance of getting vaccinated is not a new thing. We’ve been counseling our patients on recommended immunizations for years. A variety of vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teenagers, and adults. Family doctors talk about vaccines with patients of all ages. This includes new parents and patients in specific age groups. It also includes international travelers and patients diagnosed with certain health conditions.

Recently, I had the pleasure of caring for an older adult named Lisa (not her real name). She told me she had concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. When a patient shares a concern with me, it’s usually not a new thought that they just had that day. Often, they have been thinking about it for a while, waiting for an opportunity to talk to me. Some patients even write down their concern and make a list of questions they want to ask me. It’s a privilege to be a trusted source of medical information and advice for my patients.

Understanding my patients’ concerns is very important to me. I want to meet people where they are. I don’t want to force opinions, information, or assumptions on them. My goal is to provide unbiased, evidence-based education. That’s what family doctors do on a daily basis. We empower patients to make good decisions about their health.

I asked Lisa what concerns she had about the COVID-19 vaccine. She said it seems like everyone she knows has a different opinion about the vaccine. Some of her friends and family rushed to get it as soon as it was available. Others were not sure if they wanted to get vaccinated at all. The uncertainty made Lisa feel worried. But she also worried about getting COVID-19. She didn’t want to have a severe infection or spread it to people around her. She told me that multiple people in her family have had COVID-19 during the pandemic. Some have recovered or only had mild symptoms. Unfortunately, some died.

Lisa shared with me that there has always been a mistrust of vaccines within her community. Some of this mistrust is based on events in history and some comes from people’s personal experiences. I listened carefully and said that I could understand why she might be feeling uncertain about getting a new vaccine. I told her I strongly recommend that my patients get the COVID-19 vaccine because based on the data, I’m confident it’s safe and effective. I believe that getting vaccinated is an important way for us to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.

As Lisa and I talked, it was clear to me that she wanted to know the facts. Misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine is widespread. It can be hard to know what’s true and what’s not. So, we talked through all of the concerns she raised. I shared evidence to correct some vaccine myths that she had heard. For example, I explained that the mild symptoms some people have for a day or two after getting the COVID-19 vaccine are common with vaccines. They are just a sign that the body is responding to the vaccine. Serious side effects are rare. I also reassured Lisa that the COVID-19 vaccine is free. She was glad to have trustworthy information to help her make a decision about getting vaccinated. I urged her to contact me if she had any other questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or how she could get vaccinated.

QUICK TIP

If you have questions or concerns about recommended immunizations for you and your family, talk to your family doctor. So much uncertainty and confusion is being spread about vaccines, especially the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s vital to have a trusted source of accurate medical information. If you don’t have a family doctor, now is a great time to find one.