talking dto loved one

Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments. 

So, you’ve made your appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine or you’ve already gotten your shot? You’ve taken the first steps toward getting back to the group activities you enjoyed in pre-pandemic life.

But what if you have a family member or close friend who does not want to get the vaccine? How do you talk to someone who is hesitant to get the shot?

Encouraging vaccine-hesitant loved ones to get the vaccine can be challenging. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you talk with others about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

Talking to a Vaccine-Hesitant Loved One: How to Start the Conversation

Don’t: Lecture.

Do: Open up a dialogue.

Ask what their concerns are using open-ended questions, and resist the urge to interrupt or offer counterpoints.

Listen closely — their concerns might not be what you expected. Maybe they’re afraid the side effects will make them miss work, or they believe they can’t afford the shot without health insurance.

Be respectful and provide a safe space for them to express their apprehensions. Be empathetic and validate their concerns by echoing what they’ve shared, such as saying, “I can understand why you’d have questions about the safety of the vaccines.” If cost is a concern, let them know the federal government is providing the vaccine for free to everyone in the U.S. — regardless of immigration or insurance status.

Don’t: Blind them with science or rattle off facts.

Do: Verify your information before sharing it.

Make sure it’s from reliable sources, such as the CDC or the World Health Organization. Come prepared with some medically proven details you can use during the conversation. A few to keep in mind:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Tens of thousands of participants were evaluated using rigorous standards to ensure the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness. Since then, more than 105 million of all American adults have been fully vaccinated.
  • Severe reactions are rare. About 1 in 100,000 people experience an allergic reaction from the vaccine. More common are mild side effects that will go away. Some people will have no side effects at all.
  • The vaccine will not give you COVID-19. None of the vaccines contains the live virus, so you cannot get COVID-19 from the shot.
  • Herd immunity is our best chance to stop the pandemic. Medical experts estimate that 70% to 75% of the population will need to get vaccinated to stop the spread.

Don’t: Pour on the guilt or pass judgment.

Do: Focus on what they’re saying.

Their concerns are real to them — whether you agree with them or not. Be patient and understanding. Relate your personal experiences of getting the vaccine.

You could say, “I decided to get vaccinated because it protects me, my family, and others in my community.”

Offer to help them navigate the vaccine registries. Maintain your sense of humor. Above all, keep the discussion low-key. Your loved one is more likely to stay engaged in the conversation and consider your viewpoints if they feel heard.

Don’t: Turn the conversation into an argument.

Do: Connect to shared personal experiences.

Sometimes people don’t feel compelled to get vaccinated if they are not worried about their own health.

However, we all have people we care for who are vulnerable to COVID-19. Getting a vaccine reduces the risk we may be contagious – even if we have no symptoms – and protects loved ones around us.

Not only is the vaccine important for public health, but getting vaccinated can help us all return to many of the routines we enjoyed before the pandemic. The vaccine is crucial to ending the pandemic.

Don’t: Fight a losing battle.

Do: Go for the movable middle.

Many people who say they are on the fence about getting the vaccine may just be waiting until more people they know get vaccinated before they roll up their own sleeves. As more of their peers get the shots, they may be more open to considering it.

To Vax or Not to Vax?

The decision of whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine is personal. We all want our lives to get back to normal. With understanding, patience, and open conversations, vaccine-hesitant loved ones may be more willing to get their shots as more people get vaccinated.

For more information about COVID-19, visit our full library of UPMC HealthBeat posts.

For access to the latest updates on COVID-19 at UPMC, visit

  • About UPMC

    Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.