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Instilling Vaccine Confidence

May 26, 2021 4783

Why dentists should speak with their patients about COVID-19 vaccination.

You’re an influencer

As a health care professional, you are a trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and the public generally trusts public health bodies when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine information. A recommendation from a health care provider is one of the strongest determinants of vaccine acceptance.

Flex your muscle

However, dentists often underestimate the importance of their recommendations. A strong recommendation to get vaccinated, assuming the person is willing to be vaccinated, has been shown to increase uptake. If you include a question about COVID-19 vaccination to your patient intake, it provides advance information and allows you to address it with the patient at the visit.

For example: “I can see from today’s intake form that you have not received your COVID-19 vaccine.”

Such announcements signal your confidence in the vaccine and help establish vaccination as the norm. This is more effective at increasing uptake than more hesitant language (such as “What do you think about getting the COVID-19 vaccine today?”).

Nine Communication Strategies for Ensuring Demand for and Promoting Acceptance of COVID-19 Vaccines

  1. Meet People Where They Are and Don’t Try to Persuade Everyone

    Empathy is key to interacting with those who may be vaccine hesitant or skeptical.

  2. Provide a Factual Alternative to Misinformation

    Utilize a pivot approach to divert the listener to consider the concerns about the risks of the disease.

  3. Tailor Messages to Specific Audiences

    Messages will be received differently by different groups. An understanding of the targeted audiences’ concerns and motivations will drive the communication.

  4. Adapt Messaging as Circumstances Change

    Recognizing the fluidity of the situation and monitoring of the research is key to appropriate messaging.

  5. Respond to Adverse Events in a Transparent, Timely Manner

    Communicate what is known, unknown and what should be done. Employ postvaccination surveillance to identify rare adverse outcomes that may be vaccine related.

  6. Identify Trusted Messengers to Deliver Messages

    See note above about dentists’ role in messaging.

  7. Emphasize Support for Vaccination Instead of Focusing on Naysayers

    Making vaccine uptake visible will encourage a social norming of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.

  8. Leverage Trusted Vaccine Endorsers

    Use of thought leaders, community champions and celebrities can encourage the public to get vaccinated.

  9. Pay Attention to Delivery Details That Also Convey Information

    Note the public experience in the provision of the vaccine and ensure it’s positive (e.g., clean clinic sites, manageable wait times, easily accessible online sign-up portals).

Vaccination hesitancy talking points for the dental profession

COVID-19 vaccine went through thorough scientific review and was found to be safe and effective.

  • COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA, including the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. Many clinical trials were conducted and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine has been verified.
  • There may be minor side effects after vaccination.
  • The safety of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be the nation’s top priority.

California is working aggressively to expedite the distribution process equitably.

  • The COVID-19 vaccine is being made available on a phased basis that is determined by health professionals, community groups and stakeholders and according to identified urgent-need groups and vaccine supply levels.

Despite the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, Californians must remain vigilant in the effort to Stop the Spread

  • All individuals, including those who have been vaccinated, should keep wearing masks, washing their hands and practicing social distance until infectious disease experts determine there is herd immunity and these precautions are no longer needed.

Following the 5Ws is the best way to protect others and help bring an end to the pandemic.

  • Wear a mask whenever outside your home (CDC says it’s best to layer masks)
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Watch your distance
  • Wait to see loved ones or attend social gatherings
  • When it’s your turn, get vaccinated

Now more than ever, everyone’s actions can make a measurable difference in getting all of us through the pandemic. The best thing each of us can do is to not let our guard down.

Addressing the 3 C’s to bridge toward normalcy: Conviction, Convenience and Costlessness

1. Conviction

Objection: Conspiracy theories (not a pandemic, anti-vaxxers, fake injections)

One approach (primarily used for social media):

  • Do not engage. Don’t debate. Don’t respond at all.
  • Don’t try to convince or counter them with science or data or resource materials or peer-reviewed research.

Another approach:

  • Provide a factual alternative to the misinformation. State a clear fact, such as “The vaccine is safe.”
  • Avoid scientific jargon or complex, technical language.
  • Provide facts, but don’t overwhelm. Discuss ways to fact-check and how to identify reliable sources of information.
  • Finish by reinforcing the fact, multiple times if possible.

Objection: Science-based

  • COVID-19 is not like the flu. It is more contagious and more deadly.
  • Vaccines provide a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The current COVID-19 vaccines approved by the FDA are up to 95% effective at inducing immune response to COVID-19. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is one dose.
  • These vaccines have been tested with more participants than many earlier vaccines for other diseases.


My “why” for COVID vaccination (e.g. safety, family, economic, etc.)

2. Convenience

Sign up at or call (833) 422-4255 and schedule your appointment or get notified when appointments are available in your area.

3. Cost

COVID-19 vaccines, including their administration, are free.

California Department of Public Health

This resource was funded by CDPH/OOH Contract #20-10886

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