How to talk to your friends and whānau about the COVID-19 vaccine

How to have a positive and respectful conversation when someone you care about has fears or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Conversation pointers

It can be tricky to know what to do or say when someone you care about expresses fears or concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Here are a few pointers about how to have the conversation in a positive and respectful way.

1. Acknowledge that vaccination is a personal choice

It is okay to have questions.

2. Choose the right time and environment to have the conversation

Make sure you are both relaxed, free of interruptions and not needing to rush away.

3. Be respectful and empathetic in your attitude and in your language

People’s concerns are real and genuine for them. Be open, respectful, and be genuinely curious about the reasons why they feel the way they do. 

Do not forget that someone’s culture, family dynamics and circumstances may also influence their views. 

What this might look like

“Hey, is now a good time to talk to you about getting vaccinated? I really want you to have the best protection against COVID-19, but I know you’ve got some concerns. I’m really curious though, can you describe what’s holding you back?”  

4. Try not to argue and get upset 

Being argumentative could shut down a conversation. Do not try to “win” the conversation, instead listen to understand, not to respond. 

What this might look like

Words matter – using the word “but” can evoke a negative response, instead try “and also…” or “at the same time, it could be that…”, “a different way to look at that might be...” 

Actions matter – interrupting, raising your voice or rolling your eyes will all feel like judgments and could stop the conversation. Do not try to fill the space if there is a pause, as this allows for time to reflect and shows respect.

5. Ask open questions 

Ask open questions to help understand their concerns. When you understand what their concerns are, you will be able to share information to help address their concerns or understand why the things they have heard might be misinformation.   

What this might look like

“What have you heard about the COVID-19 vaccine?”, or “Why do you feel that way?”.

6. Share trusted resources 

Recommend they talk to their doctor or another trusted health professional to get answers to their questions.  

Sit down with them to look at trusted resources like the Unite against COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites. You will find reliable information about things like the vaccine, safety and effectiveness.  If appropriate, offer to help them look for information. 

Do not be discouraged if you cannot resolve the conversation the first time. You will probably need to keep the conversation going over time.  You cannot change their mind, only they can – be kind, be respectful, offer to help, create opportunities for them to access trusted information – it may be just the nudge needed. 

Download and share

Vaccine conversations poster [PDF, 619 KB]

Conversations with whānau and friends poster [PDF, 872 KB]

Watch advice on how to approach the conversation

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