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Dealing with vaccine-divided family members

So you’re in a vaccine-conflicted family? Some members rushed to get the first available jabs, while others remain steadfastly skeptical, or adamantly opposed.

What’s the best approach to persuading your unvaccinated loved ones, co-workers and friends to accept the vaccinations that have been proven overwhelmingly safe and effective?

One of the nation’s foremost infectious disease experts, Vanderbilt University’s Dr. William Schaffner, recommends gentle persuasion, with a heavy dose of empathy and understanding.   Heavy-handed browbeating, condescension and humiliation are unhelpful, he said.

“Whenever anyone expresses concerns about vaccines, I acknowledge to that person that hesitancy and skepticism are very common,” Schaffner said Friday in an interview for broadcast this week on public radio WCPI 91.3.

“So that validates what the person has expressed. Then I ask, ‘What is your particular concern? Do you have a specific piece of information, something that’s troubling you?’ Then I try to have a very low-key explanatory discussion with them. I’m not there to twist their arm or try to persuade them.”

By keeping the conversation focused on proven facts and scientific evidence, one can isolate and expose the deceptions of internet-driven misinformation campaigns fueled by thirst for political power and profits.

“I try to provide the information and the reassurance and comfort that getting the vaccine is good for them, their family and the community,” said Dr. Schaffner.

A frequent expert commentator on the national news channels, Schaffner is professor of preventive medicine in Vanderbilt’s Department of Health Policy as well a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the VU School of Medicine. After graduating from Yale, he studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Freiburg in Germany, and later earned his MD at Cornell University Medical College.

The half-hour interview airs Wednesday on 91.3 FM at 5 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1 a.m.