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My Coast Guard
Commentary | June 9, 2021

A conversation guide to encourage shipmates, family, and friends to get vaccinated

By MyCG Staff

The current COVID-19 vaccines the Coast Guard is administering are safe and effective. To date, the Coast Guard has fully vaccinated over 64% of the workforce and vaccines are widely available.

Some are still reluctant to get vaccinated and have questions or concerns about the vaccines. Answering and addressing their questions and concerns requires individual engagement, listening, and providing them with authoritative information. It’s important when talking with people who are reluctant to get vaccinated to engage them in a non-judgmental way and encourage them to make fully informed decisions.

The Coast Guard’s vaccination campaign continues. Progress has enabled us to ease some of the precautions needed to ensure the safety of our members, families, and communities. Vaccination remains vital to our efforts to defend against COVID-19 and emerge from this pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccine has never been more widely available than now. The Coast Guard is also offering to vaccinate eligible dependent family members at Coast Guard clinics. 

All members of the Coast Guard are encouraged to take every opportunity to inform themselves, their shipmates, and their families about the vaccines from authoritative sources. This is challenging, because there is a lot of information and misinformation out there that can cause misunderstanding and confusion. Everyone should have the ability to make informed decisions by getting answers to their questions to build confidence in the decision to get vaccinated. Building that confidence requires individual engagement with peers, first-line supervisors, and medical professionals.

Confidence starts with a conversation. Although not always easy or comfortable, these conversations are vitally important to increasing our vaccination rate, one individual at a time. All should have access to the resources to make fully informed decisions, and where needed, speak with medical professionals about the benefits of vaccination and the risks associated with contracting COVID-19.

Below are some strategies to assist you and prepare you for the questions that may arise. We all have the power to effect positive change, in this case overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic — one individual at a time.

Guiding the conversation
Here’s a basic blueprint for the conversation:

  1. Introduce the discussion. Emphasize the need to make a fully informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccine.
  2. Offer authoritative information to engage your audience. Provide facts from authoritative sources (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Military Health System) regarding the severity of COVID or benefits of receiving the vaccine.
  3. Provide a personal or emotionally engaging story to connect your audience. Discuss your own decision process for receiving the vaccine, or a personal experience with the adverse effects of COVID-19.
  4. Encourage participants to share their questions about the vaccine. Whether someone is hesitant or seeking additional information, there are a number of common questions about the vaccines. Asking someone to share their questions will enable a discussion through which you can provide responses or direct them to resources that address their concerns.

Best practices
As you have these conversations, keep in mind a few best practices:

  • Acknowledge a member’s concerns in a non-judgmental way and address any questions they have.
  • Invite open dialogue, listen before responding, and demonstrate a willingness to learn other perspectives that may be different from your own.
  • Be authentic, empathetic, thoughtful, and curious.
  • Share your reasons for deciding to get the vaccine. Share a personal story if someone close to you suffered the adverse effects of COVID-19.

Talking points
Though there are many resources out there, you may find the following talking points helpful:

  • Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice, but I want to make sure you have the most current information to make an informed decision.
  • As you are probably already aware, those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask (subject to state/local and business rules).
  • There are new COVID-19 variants around the globe which spread more easily than the original strain, and preliminary evidence shows the potential for more severe disease. The variants reported in India and the United Kingdom (U.K) have been declared a global concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). This tells us there is a potential for another wave of COVID-19, and we would witness an increase in death, sickness, and potential shut-downs.
  • Vaccinations are the best way to combat COVID-19 and its variants as we go forward.

Conversation practices to avoid
As you have these conversations with co-workers, family members, and friends, do not:

  • Aggressively push people to agree with your opinion or to receive the vaccine.
  • Be defensive or turn the conversation into an argument.
  • Escalate any perceived tensions or conflicts.

It’s important to remember that we are all in this together and, as the Commandant says: “We are stronger together.” These conversations are not easy, but they are vitally important in our collective fight against COVID-19. 

In encouraging people to make fully informed decisions, direct them to the many resources available through authoritative sources, including: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Military Health System, and the Coast Guard vaccine guidance site. Additionally, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) provides a comprehensive vaccine conversation guide here.