The HEAR Technique: a tool for engaging people skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine

David is a healthy, middle-aged adult who has known only a few people affected by COVID-19, with only mild symptoms. He’s suspicious of the hurried pace of development of the vaccine and feels he’d be better off without it. 

Noemi is in her 20s. Neither she nor her friends are vaccinated, and they are suspicious of government efforts to boost vaccination rates. Why bribe people to get vaccinated through a lottery if they are really so good? Removal of social media posts labelled as vaccine misinformation further deepen their distrust. 

People like David and Noemi are some of the nearly 134 million eligible people in the U.S. (as of August 2021) who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The reasons that people elect not to get vaccinated are complex, ranging from concerns about the safety or efficacy of the vaccines, the impact of historical racism and trauma, government mistrust, and systemic barriers affecting access. Increasing attention is centered around vaccine skepticism and the extent to which people might be persuaded to consider vaccination. 

We developed the HEAR Technique as a tool to help vaccine outreach workers respectfully engage with individuals who are expressing skepticism or strong emotions. To date we have trained more than 2,500 vaccine outreach workers as well as contact tracers, case investigators, and school specialists in the HEAR Technique and other Health Coaching Tools as part of the California Connected Virtual Training Academy, a partnership of UCSF, UCLA, and the California Department of Public Health. 

The HEAR Technique is free for use. Please contact Patricia Mejia ([email protected]) if you are interested in training for your organization.


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