Why compassion, understanding and trusted information are key to addressing vaccine hesitancy

Alejandra Gonzalez is a mother of three and teacher at the Neighborhood House in Salt Lake City. After some of her family members discourages her from getting the COVID-19 vaccine, she was hesitant to take the shot. Her work brought in a physician to answer questions, which gave her the confidence to move forward. (KSL TV)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Compassion, understanding and trusted information: Experts say those are the keys to helping someone make a decision about getting the vaccine. One Utah woman who was initially hesitant to get vaccinated shares what changed her mind.

Alejandra Gonzalez is a mother of three and teacher at the Neighborhood House in Salt Lake City.

She says some in her family were steering her away from the COVID-19 vaccine and she had concerns, too, until her work brought in a doctor to answer questions.

"We asked tons of questions," Gonzalez said.

That meeting with the doctor helped change her mind. "That's when I started getting more confident on it," she said.

"There are many reasons why people may not be vaccinated yet," said Dr. Tamara Sheffield, medical director of community health and prevention with Intermountain Healthcare.

She said access to trusted information is vital for vaccine decision-making. "We need to find out where people are and that comes by listening and understanding and asking questions," she said.

Sheffield says barriers to getting the vaccine could be because of work schedules, technology, transportation or communication and that instead of telling someone what to do, we should listen first.

"We need to remove our blind spots by understanding them and asking them questions and having empathy for their concerns," Sheffield said.

"I have some brothers, too, and they're like, 'No, we're not into it' and I'm like, 'OK, well I'm going to take the risk. It's my decision,' and here I am," Gonzales said.

Gonzalez is getting her second shot this week. "I feel excellent. I get to protect more of my family," she said. She's also excited for the freedom that comes with being vaccinated. "I'm happy to have no more mask and to see more smiles," she said laughing.

Gonzalez says she's now encouraging family and friends to get as much information as possible and to get vaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccine is available at no cost even if someone is uninsured and is available to anyone regardless of their immigration status. To register online, visit the Utah Department of Health or Intermountain Healthcare or call the Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707.

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Ladd Egan

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