As of early June, about 41% of people living in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Studies show that people who are vaccinated are far less likely to get seriously sick from COVID-19 or the COVID-19 variants. Bottom line: the vaccines are working.
However, the number of people in the United States who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine and have not already done so is slowly decreasing. This is due to a widespread sense of hesitancy and out-right rejection of the COVID-19 vaccine. As trusted sources of health care information, what can we do to help increase access to, and information about the COVID-19 vaccine?
Why are people hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Researchers across the world are asking this same question, and there is no one answer that fits all. However, there are some common themes:
- Fear due to misinformation.
- Hesitations because of historical mistreatment of communities of color by the medical establishment.
- Resistance based on religious beliefs.
- Having a “gut feeling” about the vaccine.
- Lacking access or feeling it is too complicated to schedule an appointment.
What can we do about vaccine hesitancy?
Identify the source of hesitancy, and then respond accordingly. For some people, all you will do is listen. Others might need encouragement to do their own research and talk to people within their community they can trust. And for some, you can address misconceptions and offer more complete information. Here is some information to get you started:
Access to the COVID-19 vaccine:
- Vaccines are available to all people living in the United States over the age of 12*, regardless of immigration status. Many sites are available for walk-ins, meaning you do not need an appointment to get a vaccine.
- Find a vaccination site.
- For help or more information, call the vaccination hotline 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926)
- To anonymously find the closest place to get a vaccine, text your zip code to 438-829. Note that it might take about 15 minutes to get a response.
*Only the Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for people 12-16 years old. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for people 18 years and older.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone.
- Some people experience mild-to-moderate side-effects within about a day of their shot. It is common to feel sore, tired, have a headache, or have a fever. This is normal and safe, and will go away within a few days.
- There is strong evidence, based on information that goes back to at least the 1960s, that vaccines will not cause long-term side-effects. Historically, any side-effects from vaccines presented themselves within two months of vaccination.
- The technologies used in the current COVID-19 vaccines were studied for years and used in other treatments, without any long-term issues.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has a very small chance of causing a rare but serious type of blood clot. (Note that contracting COVID-19 is more likely to cause serious health issues than any of the COVID-19 vaccines ).
Speed of development:
- The mRNA vaccine technology template used to create the COVID-19 vaccines has been studied and refined for decades. 
- Scientists and researchers had unlimited resources when developing the COVID-19 vaccines. Put simply, with unlimited resources, things can happen faster.
- COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccinations will not affect one’s immigration status / case.
- Patient information will not be shared with immigration agencies.
- Patients might be asked for a Social Security number or government ID but are not required to provide them.
- The COVID-19 vaccine is not considered a public charge.
- S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stated they will not be looking for immigrants at or near health care facilities, hospitals, health clinics, and other medical care locations.
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine does not have any negative impact on one’s chances of getting a green card.
- The COVID-19 vaccines cannot change a person’s DNA or genes.
- Vaccines do not contain the live virus, and therefore cannot give you COVID-19.
- The vaccine does not have a microchip or tracking device.
- There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine will affect one’s fertility.
- Confusion (and misinformation) around this issue started after a false report was shared widely on social media. For more details, read the John’s Hopkins article titled: The COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know.
- In fact, during the Pfizer trial, 23 women became pregnant, likely by accident. 12 of the pregnancies happened in the vaccinated group, and 11 in the placebo group. Of the 23 pregnancies, there was only one person who suffered a pregnancy loss. This volunteer was part of the placebo group, meaning she did not receive the vaccine.
- The COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is recommended that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding speak with their doctors before getting the COVID-19 vaccine. 
If you already had COVID-19:
- It is recommended that people who have recovered from COVID-19 still get the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Getting sick with COVID-19 provides some natural immunity, but scientists are not sure exactly how long that immunity lasts, or how immunity may vary based on the level of infection (for example, how protected you may be if you had an asymptomatic vs. symptomatic infection). By contrast the vaccine offers reliable and measurable protection against the virus and its variants.
- Note that people who received monoclonal antibodies as part of their COVID-19 treatment should wait at least 90 days after their treatment to be vaccinated for increased efficacy. 
Other COVID-19 vaccine resources:
Access to reliable information is an important part of reducing vaccine hesitancy. Remind clients to ask their doctors any additional questions they may have. Here are some easy-to-read and informative sources:
- COVID-19 Myth vs. Fact handout in English and Spanish.
- COVID-19 Vaccine immigration information in English and Spanish.
- Assorted materials in English and Spanish made for Agricultural Workers.
- COVID-19 information for individuals without health insurance in English and Spanish.
- Research showing that long-term side effects are unlikely.
- The Demographic Make-Up of COVID-19 Vaccine Trials
- The COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know
- FAQ on Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J vaccines, and many other resources in English and Spanish.
- 12 things you need to know about vaccine hesitancy.
- The top 5 questions patients ask about the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Building Vaccine Confidence While Reckoning with Mistrust of the Medical Establishment