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Family Doctors Step Up as the Last Line of Defense against Vaccine Hesitancy

By Josephine Reid

Josephine Reid
Josephine Reid

Although 42 percent of the US population is now fully vaccinated for COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy is still prevalent, now with a new group—parents of children 12 and under.Family doctors and are now being called to the frontlines to create trust among parents of children 12 and under who can now be vaccinated.

A recent COVID-19collaborative pollrevealed that a recommendation from a child’s pediatrician would earn trust from 83 percent of parents.

Srikar Reddy, a family physician for theAscension Medical Groupwho is offering the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines at his practice, said that “much of the reluctance comes from patients who have already contracted COVID-19 and believe they are currently immune.”

Reddy uses the vaccines’ effectiveness against new, possibly more contagious variants as a tool to influence reluctant patients.

Mass vaccination sites also contribute to reluctant attitudes for parents and guardians. The person administering the shot at a mass site is more than likely a stranger. However, mass vaccination sites are decreasing, and more long-time family doctors are giving COVID-19 vaccine shots at their offices and administering the shots to young patients.

“The low-hanging fruit is gone, and we’re entering this critical phase where primary care doctors, who people trust, are tasked with getting the next 10 percent to15 percent of people vaccinated,” Reddy stated. 

Family doctors are also pushing the notion that the vaccine can fit into families’ regular routines. “Many of these sites are offering walk-in vaccines, so it may be as easy as adding vaccinating your teen to your grocery list the next time you go out to get some milk at your local grocery store or pharmacy,” said Dr. John O’Reilly, a long-in-practice pediatrician who heads Baystate Medical Center’s general pediatrics division.

Some pediatricians are turning to social media to help reach parents and offer accurate information. They are aware that social platforms are where real, unfiltered conversations are happening.You can read some of these conversations onTwitter,including parents’ pleas to other parents. One tweet said, “Many parents are simply opposed to ‘cocktails’ of vaccines which are 2 or 3 in one – they are NOT opposed to single dose vaccines given separately to allow the body to process and overcome the side effects and avoid catastrophic adverse effects. The issues are often confused.”

“Pediatricians and pediatric cardiologist are warning parents COVID is much much much scarier than the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine . . . cool cool, agree. . . . then why the [expletive] is California eliminating the mask mandate when kids don’t have their shots yet?!”@CAgovernor.

Another tweet said, “It’s astounding how many parents still talk as if the COVID vaccine was magically developed out of thin air by randos somewhere, untested, without a hint of science or decades of research on similar SARA/MERS vaccines. Please, please get the facts.”

We’re encouraging more parents to vaccinate their children ages 12 and older. This is a wonderful way that parents will help bring more safety to their children’s schools and communities. It’s also a powerful way for parents and children to step up with their pediatricians and say, “We Can Do This!”

For more information about vaccination sites in your area, please go to https://www.vaccines.gov.

Josephine Reid is a member of the Public Relations Team at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee.

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