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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Make friends with the ‘vaccine-hesitant’

It feels like a miracle when we do things right here in Quebec, especially in the field of healthcare, but there you have it: projections show Quebec will achieve a vaccination rate of 80 per cent by this fall. Hallelujah. We all know that we have to reach the all-important number of 75 per cent if we want to get our normal lives back, and the fact we are set to exceed expectations merits a cheer.

But hold up — here in the Outaouais we are lagging. Our vaccination rate to date is the lowest in the province; the recent tally of people who have received their first dose at 66 per cent compared to the provincial average of 71 per cent.

According to CISSSO it is the 18 to 39 age group with the lowest rate. The director of Public Health is desperate to get the word out to anyone who is holding out that it is crucial they do their part — not only so we can reach that crucial number of 75 per cent, but for their own safety against the more deadly variants.

Only those living under a rock are oblivious to the rising tension between those of us desperate to get this virus under control and resume a normal life and those who don’t want to get vaccinated. In the Gatineau Hills, we have an abundance of free-thinkers and people who believe strongly in holistic and alternative health practices.

Local discussions on social media also reveal that we have a surprising (maybe not so surprising) number of conspiracy theorists. Much has been written on the topic of how to address people shy to get the jab. The general advice about the anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists: don’t bother. There is no changing the minds of those already down myriad rabbit holes of disinformation campaigns plaguing the internet.

But the “vaccine-hesitant” – those who are still unsure, worried, confused, or just procrastinating for various reasons – are worth your time, and there are many in our community.

Here’s a truncated list of ways to talk to the vaccine-hesitant suggested by experts in a recent article in the Globe and Mail:

Most important: don’t get into a fight. Emotions are running high, but remaining calm and open to their opinions also opens doors.

Remind those who worry about vaccines being too experimental that mRNA technology has been around for decades before it was tailored for the COVID vaccine. Better yet, ask them to have a good talk with their doctor or another trusted source of accurate information. (Facebook groups are not trusted sources.)

Emphasize the personal impact and positives that will come as more people are vaccinated. Mentioning that grandparents will finally be able to hug their grandkids is a helpful image; guilting and shaming people — not so helpful.

Appeal to their sense of altruism. Maybe they are not worried about their personal safety, but they surely know someone who is. Remind the hesitant that by getting vaccinated, they are helping the vulnerable stay safe.

And of course, the obvious: we need to reach the crucial 75 per cent to open schools, workplaces, wedding halls, and other basics of normal life. To read the full article:

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