How to Talk about Vaccines at the Holiday Table

This is my favorite time of the year, I get to enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of the Dominican cuisine while spending time with my family and friends. It’s a time to catch up with everyone, talk about what has happened since we last saw each other, and, of course, to tackle that one question that’s been on everyone’s minds: “Have you gotten vaccinated?” In the beginning, those discussions about vaccination could be pretty intense, maybe even a little nerve-wracking. But guess what? I’ve picked up some pretty cool skills to navigate this topic within my family. I’ve learned that discussing vaccines can be a chance to educate and inform, rather than an argument waiting to happen. It’s about sharing experiences, dispelling myths, and understanding each other’s perspectives. So, when that vaccine conversation sparks up, I don’t shy away – I dive in!

Why is getting vaccinated important?

Vaccines protect against infectious diseases. The coughs from across the classroom may seem harmless, but sometimes they’re not and can lead to you contracting the flu or COVID-19. Personally, I don’t like being sick. Vaccination protects me from illnesses like influenza and COVID-19 and helps me protect my family as well. If you have a big family like me, everyone shows up to the gathering but I am usually most excited to see my pregnant cousins, my newborn nephews, and my abuelita. These are all vulnerable groups who are more susceptible to severe complications from certain diseases. By getting vaccinated, you can give your grandparents and baby cousins a little extra love when you see them and know that you aren’t putting them in harm’s way. 

Approaching the Conversation

No doubt, discussing vaccines with friends and family members is intimidating. As expected, my friends and family members always have a ton of questions and even some counterarguments. Here are some tips on how I’ve approached the conversation:

  1. Kick off the conversation in a relaxed environment. Bonus points if it’s over some of your favorite holiday meals to create a safe and non-confrontational environment. No pressure, just good vibes.
  2. Knowledge is power. So, arm yourself with the most accurate and up-to-date information about vaccines. Geek out on the science behind them, the benefits they offer, and the rock-solid data proving they’re safe and effective.
  3. Real-life stories are like gold in these conversations. If you’ve heard about someone who had a tough time because they didn’t get vaccinated or, on the flip side, someone who sailed through a disease thanks to vaccines, don’t hold back – share those stories.
  4. When they talk, listen. This isn’t about convincing; it’s about understanding and supporting. They might have doubts or fears and that’s perfectly okay. Patiently answer their questions and empathetically address their concerns. 
  5. At the end of the day, health decisions are theirs to make. Provide information and support, but the choice to vaccinate is entirely theirs. Be careful to not overstep any boundaries. 
  6. Make the conversation a two-way street. See this as an opportunity to explore, ask questions, share stories, and maybe even learn something new together.

Remember, conversations about vaccines are conversations about health, safety, and community well-being. So, don’t be intimidated! By approaching these conversations with empathy, understanding, and accurate information, you play a crucial role in safeguarding all of your loved ones.

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Natalie Cordero

Natalie Cordero

Natalie is a Communications, Outreach and Development Intern at the Unity Consortium. She is responsible for developing and implementing efficient health promotion and communication strategies and connecting with strategic partners in various related fields.

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