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Education And Empathy: N.H. Health Officials Turning Focus To The Vaccine Hesitant

A COVID-19 vaccine in a vile
Todd Bookman
In May, The Winnipesaukee Public Health Network expects to shift its focus more towards vaccinating those whose questions and concerns may be stopping them from signing up for a vaccine appointment.

Around 60 percent of eligible Granite Staters have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 or booked an appointment. Now, public officials say, they’re beginning to work harder on reaching those who either need more information, or aren’t sure yet they want to get the vaccine.

The Winnipesaukee Public Health Network has spent the last few months focusing on vaccine distribution for vulnerable populations like the homebound and the homeless.

Tammy Carmichael, Executive Director of the Partnership for Public Health in Laconia, says that this month she anticipates to continue vaccinating people that lean more vaccine confident, those that “want to get the vaccine.”

In May, she expects they’ll be shifting to spend more time on the vaccine hesitant, a group that crosses many demographic lines.

Carmichael says her organization is preparing with help from groups like the New Hampshire Medical Society. The society has been working on messaging and creating resources to address common questions and concerns around the COVID-19 vaccine for months.

“So now we're kind of able to borrow what they've put together and start implementing it in our area, which has been a huge help,” Carmichael said.

Jim Potter, Executive Vice President of the New Hampshire Medical Society, says the goal of working with health professionals, like Carmichael’s organization, is all about tapping into trust that already exists.

He says for many people, when it comes to information around health, “Those that are most trusted are your physician, and or other health care providers or nurses.”

During an earlier phase of New Hampshire’s vaccine distribution, Poetter says the society worked with school nurses, equipping them to answer questions and concerns from teachers in their regions.

He says making sure health professionals can answer questions with empathy is key. He also says the language itself makes a difference. Vaccine information, Potter says, should be presented in a way that is clear, simple, and based in science.

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