Boosters Are Complicating Efforts to Persuade the Unvaccinated to Get Shots

Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a pro-business group in a state where vaccination rates lag nationally, is providing companies a “vaccination encouragement” tip sheet and awarding them bronze, silver or gold-level certificates, based on percentage of vaccinated employees. Employers can then flaunt their status to encourage customer traffic. “We think vaccination is essential for the recovery from the pandemic,” Mr. Mehan said.

Grief-stricken relatives of children and unvaccinated adults who succumbed to the Delta variant have even been taking it upon themselves to sponsor vaccine drives. This summer, some held vaccine events at funerals.

But with mass vaccine sites largely shuttered, the burden of persuasion has fallen increasingly to primary care providers. Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist with Novant Health, which has many clinics in North Carolina, has had repeated discussions with hesitant patients around the Covid vaccines.

“You have to overcommunicate to an incredible degree,” Dr. Priest said, “because we still get questions on things that I think, ‘This was well-known 18 months ago.’ But that’s where people are, so you just have to keep answering that question and answering it and answering it.”

It is critical, he added, that doctors have vaccines on hand. “So when the patient finally says, ‘I think I’ll do it,’ we can seal the deal. Because if you don’t have the shots in your clinic right then, people get in their car, get busy with other errands, forget or change their mind.”

Alison Buttenheim, a behavioral health expert at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that although primary care doctors, as trusted sources for patients, had been playing a crucial role in this phase of vaccine uptake, “it definitely raises the question of what happens to people who don’t have a usual source of care.”