Two years after Covid-19 vaccines first became available to the public, over 20% of American adults are still unvaccinated. And that’s just for the primary series – just about 15% have received the new divalent booster.
Even though we know this all along vaccination only will not stop Covid-19, it remains an extremely important tool for saving lives. And health care providers are key to closing the vaccination gap: both as persuasive ambassadors and as hands-on providers of vaccination.
Suppliers as persuasive messengers
In the tense atmosphere created by the rapid development of the Covid-19 vaccine, vaccine hesitancy has found a fertile ground. almost four out of five adults admit they aren’t sure if some of the misinformation they’ve heard about Covid-19 is true or not. Reliable messengers are absolutely necessary to overcome people’s doubts and fears.
Most importantly, in an environment of vaccine hesitancy politically polarized, this positive view of medical providers bridges any divide in society. The doctors are most trusted source of health information for everyone in the US, regardless of political party.
Even unvaccinated people trust their doctors’ opinions about vaccination more than anyone else‘c! The strength of these pre-existing relationships makes providers the perfect candidates to change their patients’ minds.
Patient-focused strategies to increase vaccination
So what can providers do to make the most of their patients’ trust? Researchers in fields such as public health, psychology, and the behavioral sciences have studied the most effective ways for doctors to reach their patients. Two strategies have been shown to work repeatedly to increase vaccine uptake:
- Make strong, suggestive recommendations. Researchers agree: nothing better to vaccinate patients than a doctor’s recommendation. A study on maternal immunization found that over 90% of women would accept vaccination if their doctor recommended it – although many had considerable hesitation and concern. The most effective way to promote vaccination is to provide the so-called strong, presumptive recommendation. Instead of asking if the patient is interested in a vaccine, the provider can announce that it is time for their vaccination, putting the burden on the patient to opt out. Treating vaccines as a normal, routine part of daily care reassures people that there is nothing to worry about, making it easy to just go with the flow. Not surprisingly, the alleged referrals can be as much as seventeen times you’re less likely to encounter resistance!
- Send vaccination reminders and invitations in advance. It’s easy for people to forget when they should be vaccinated or simply put them off until a later date. By scheduling patients in advance for vaccine appointments, providers can eliminate the most difficult part of the process.
This strategy has been proven to scale flu vaccination rates by 10%, and there’s no reason to think it won’t work for other vaccines as well. If this strategy is too aggressive, reminders can also help — anything to make the process of vaccinating patients easier.
Practice-focused strategies to increase vaccination
Patients aren’t the only ones who can benefit from making the vaccination process easier and more streamlined. Providers can also benefit by taking steps to ensure their practice environment is ideal for promoting vaccination:
- Standing orders to automate vaccination. Standing orders allow busy physicians to shift some of the burden of vaccination to other professionals, such as nurses, who could easily incorporate immunization into other admission routines. They are one of the most well-supported methods of increasing vaccination, with over 40 studies proving they work. Take a look this guide for ten quick and easy steps to implementing standing orders in your practice.
- Track success through audit and feedback systems. It’s hard to improve something you don’t measure. Audit and feedback systems allow providers to track their vaccination rates and compare them to the planned target. In general, tracking has a small and reliably positive effect on the effectiveness of doctors, but there are ways to make it stronger. For example, when practices or providers can compare vaccination rates with each other, the benefits of feedback become stronger. Everyone wants to see their name at the top of the leaderboard!
The role of providers in vaccination
Of course, some providers may be hesitant to adopt these strategies because they believe their role in health care is to guide patients, not make decisions for them. That’s definitely fair — no one should compromise their professional ethics.
In many cases, however, patients make their vaccination decisions in an environment full of misinformation, often spread by a few motivated individuals who can be pursuit of profit above the truth. Healthcare providers are trusted by Americans because of their long history of putting patients’ needs first. When it comes to vaccination, that means at least starting the conversation.
Credit: Geber86, Getty Images