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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy ‘somewhat understandable,’ expert says


Transparency will be paramount

While presenting data transparently to patients is key in helping them accept COVID-19 vaccination, Dr. Offit said, he also believes “telling stories” can be just as effective, if not more so. When the varicella vaccine was approved in 1995, he said, the “uptake the first few years was pretty miserable” until public service messaging emphasized that some children die from chickenpox.

“Fear works,” he said. “You always worry about pushback of something being oversold, but hopefully we’re scared enough about this virus” to convince people that vaccination is wise. “I do think personal stories carry weight on both sides,” Dr. Offit said.

Mark Sawyer, MD, of University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, California, said Offit’s presentation offered important takeaways for clinicians about how to broach the topic of COVID-19 vaccination with patients and families.

“We need to communicate clearly and transparently to patients about what we do and don’t know” about the vaccines, Dr. Sawyer said in an interview. “We will know if they have common side effects, but we will not know about very rare side effects until we have used the vaccines for a while.

“We will know how well the vaccine works over the short-term, but we won’t know over the long term,” added Dr. Sawyer, a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.

“We can reassure the community that SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are being evaluated in trials in the same way and with the same thoroughness as other vaccines have been,” he said. “That should give people confidence that shortcuts are not being taken with regard to safety and effectiveness evaluations.”

Dr. Offit and Dr. Sawyer have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article originally appeared on


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