In December, the Food and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first COVID-19 vaccines. While initial doses of the vaccine are being offered to health care personnel and long-term care residents, future phases of the vaccine rollout will focus on vaccinating the general public, including essential workers, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions. Obstetrician-gynecologists can take an active role in facilitating COVID-19 vaccine confidence and encouraging vaccination.
While many people are eager to get the vaccine, hesitancy does exist. Willingness to consider vaccination varies by person, with some people expressing concerns about safety, the speed at which the vaccine was developed, and vaccine side effects. In addition, in communities of color, willingness to consider vaccination is often impacted by historic and continued injustices and systemic racism that has eroded trust. According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, only 50% of Black Americans compared with 65% of White Americans, would definitely or probably get vaccinated against COVID-19 even if the vaccine was free and determined safe by scientists, many citing distrust of the health care system as a concern.
Access to and confidence in COVID-19 vaccination is essential for all communities, especially for communities of color who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As providers of health care throughout a patient’s life, obstetrician-gynecologists are uniquely positioned to educate patients on the benefits and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There are three steps you can take to discuss COVID-19 vaccination, engage in shared decision making, and build vaccine confidence with patients and colleagues, including:
- Review ACOG’s Practice Advisory on vaccinating pregnant and lactating patients against COVID-19: It includes information on the vaccine development process, side effects, and considerations for pregnant and lactating patients and patients contemplating pregnancy. It also addresses health equity considerations and vaccine confidence with links to additional resources.
- Use ACOG’s COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy Conversation Guide for clinicians: The talking points can be used to facilitate respectful risk and benefit discussions with pregnant patients and cover topics including risk of COVID-19 infection during pregnancy, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, individual risk based on circumstances, and special considerations for communities of color.
- Tell your patients about the COVID-19 resources on ACOG’s new patient website: There are responses to patient questions about COVID-19 vaccines written by health care professionals using everyday language. There is also an expert column by Shana Miles, MD, that answers the question, “How do we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective?”
In addition to building vaccine confidence with patients, obstetrician-gynecologists have an opportunity and responsibility to help build vaccine confidence among fellow health care workers. You can do this by talking with your colleagues and sharing relevant resources from ACOG and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even if your colleague isn’t an obstetrician-gynecologist, the educational resources listed above may be helpful. In order to build confidence among patients and the general population, it is imperative that health care workers educate themselves and lead by example by getting vaccinated.
Active on Social Media?
You can help promote vaccine confidence online by taking a picture of yourself getting vaccinated and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Hundreds of ACOG members have already joined the conversation. To get involved, post your picture, tag ACOG (@acog_org on Instagram, @acog on Twitter, ACOGNational on Facebook), and use #ACOGfightsCOVID with a message about how vaccines save lives.