How a doctor talks to people who are hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines

Stickers for COVID-19 vaccine recipients were held on the mobile bus clinic in Winthrop, Minn. on July 16, 2021. Hannah Yang | MPR News
Hannah Yang | MPR News File

This year, Dr. Zeke McKinney has gone out into Twin Cities communities to provide information about the COVID-19 vaccines directly to people who are hesitant to receive them.

McKinney is fighting vaccine misinformation, but he isn’t trying to force the vaccine onto anyone.

“Patient autonomy is the first principle of medical ethics, and that means you get to choose what’s right for you,” he told host Tom Crann of his approach. “All I’m trying to do is help you get the best advice.”

When it comes to vaccine hesitancy, “Everyone’s concerns … are completely unique,” McKinney said. “You have to hear what people’s concerns are and then try to address those one by one with facts.”

McKinney, who works in clinical practice at HealthPartners in St. Louis Park and specializes in occupational medicine, showed Crann how he might approach a conversation with a person who is vaccine hesitant.

What if someone expressed concern that the COVID-19 vaccines are too new and that we don’t know enough about them yet?

McKinney would tell them that governments and corporations have poured a great deal of funding into research and development for the vaccines and that enough time has passed to see differences in outcomes between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

What if someone said they don’t trust the government and therefore don’t trust the vaccines?

McKinney would tell them that the vaccines weren’t made by the government and that they’re some of the most deeply studied vaccines in history.

What if someone pointed to potential misinformation to support their vaccine hesitancy?

McKinney would ask them where they’re getting this information and how those sources might benefit from sharing good or bad information.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Correction: In the interview audio, the wrong city was given as the location of the HealthPartners clinic where McKinney works in clinical practice. The correct city is St. Louis Park.

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