Drive for 75: Resources from Week 25

Workforce | August 20, 2021 | by Dee Pekruhn

LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Calls feature brief segments called “Drive for 75” to promote the successful vaccination of at least 75% of our aging services providers’ workforce, and as needed, residents. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in attaining high vaccination rates.

This Week’s Highlights:

Volume 60, Air Date 8.16.21: “From Vaccine Hesitant to Vaccine Protests: How’d We Get Here?”

For Drive for 75 today, our travels continue through several states across our country as we explore the question: from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine mandate protests, how’d we get HERE?

Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Winchester VA; these are spots where vaccine mandate protests are starting to pop up. For some, the issue is the requirement of a ‘vaccine passport’ to enter indoor establishments; for others, it’s the threat of losing their jobs and livelihoods through the mandate of an employer. Still others have joined the movements as a “ride along” to their core issue of mask mandates.

In photos from the protests, you’re likely to see at least one person holding a sign advocating for ‘medical freedom.’ If you’re like me, you may be wondering, what is medical freedom and how did this get connected with vaccine mandates? Looks like it all started in New Hampshire, where Governor Sununu signed a ‘medical freedom immunization bill’ that says New Hampshire residents can’t be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to access public facilities, benefits or services. This bill, signed at the end of July, defines ‘medical freedom’ as “natural, essential and inherent right to bodily integrity, free from any threat or compulsion by government to accept an immunization.” In NH, schools, nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, prisons, and hospitals are exempted from this new law – although COVID 19 vaccinations are NOT listed as one of those required vaccinations for those specified organizations.

So, how can we learn from the protests and their mobilization of the “medical freedom” concept, in order to combat hesitancy? I think that if you listen to what the protestors are actually saying, you’ll hear echoes of all the advice we heard earlier this year about convincing the vaccine hesitant:

“But for the most part, [the protesters] described a fear of the unknown, believing the vaccines had not been out long enough to convince them they were safe, while uncomfortable with the pressure — and now, mandates — falling on unvaccinated people to get one.

“We are not ‘anti-vax,’ ” said [a behavioral health nurse] who started a group to rally others opposed to the vaccine mandate. “We’ve done all the vaccines that you get when you grow up — but those have been around for decades. But this one, there’s so much propaganda around it. It doesn’t make any sense.”

A certified family nurse practitioner said she might be more willing to consider the shot if she didn’t feel coerced. Now, though, they were willing to lose their livelihoods if that’s what refusing the vaccine would mean. Hart said they would not budge. “This is the hill to die on,” she said.”

Fear of the unknown. Mistrust of the vaccine development process and, medical institutions generally. Wanting to have their right to choose validated and understood – this sounds familiar, I’m sure. We can see just from this one example how an influence-able person can be converted into a “die hard” hold out – the last thing any of us wants. Continuing to have those open, informational, non-confrontational conversations with employees – even and especially if you are mandating – might still make the difference between a staff member who feels heard and understood and someone organizing protests in your backyard. Food for thought!


Volume 61, Air Date 8.18.21: “Championing the Peer Champions”

I’m taking bets today, folks. I’m betting that, right now, while we’re all talking here, your staff members are talking amongst themselves about these very topics – the vaccines, the mandates, who’s going to do what, who read what and where, etc. about why – or why not – to get the vaccine. And I’d bet it’s those peer to peer conversations that drive many of the decisions that people are making about the vaccines, their jobs, and their future with you, their employer. (And it’s not just my bet; the Institute of Healthcare Improvement found, in their research, this is the most effective way to address hesitancy.)

We’ve talked in the past about how mobilizing peer ambassadors can make a big difference in influencing the decisions of others. Following the results of our Vaccine Mandate Snap Poll, I thought maybe another “round up” of advice would be helpful on how to mobilize what may be the most influential vaccine spokespeople yet – the peer influencers that are around your most vaccine hesitant friends, family and staff members.

· Build a stakeholder team with representatives from every part of the facility: housekeeping; dining; nursing assistants, nurses, social workers, etc. Identify "peer" champions that can help educate and encourage peers to get vaccinated. Hold small huddles with peer groups led by the champion for that group.

· Ask staff to post pictures of themselves getting the vaccine with the caption, “I’m getting vaccinated for…” my mom, grandmother, kids, etc.]”

· Quartz: Within the remaining group of the truly vaccine-hesitant, the strategy that appears to be effectively changing minds is caring, repeated conversations. “Ongoing conversations “with a trusted peer who can listen to where you’re coming from, and acknowledge your concerns are valid, and perhaps quite slowly chip away at outstanding concerns you might have” appear to work well.

Have an Implementation plan to support peer-to-peer vaccine conversations; There are four steps outlined in the implementation plan to developing a peer-to-peer vaccine conversations:

  1. Build a team approach.
  2. Empower and train peers to have the conversations.
  3. Establish referral contacts so that peers can refer their colleagues to them when out-of-scope questions arise.
  4. Communicate ongoing access to vaccines.

· Use the Vaccine hesitancy tools website: The website designed to be used by peers to have COVID-19 conversations includes facts, videos and resources to address major concerns such as safety, religious considerations and explanations various languages.

And don’t miss this great “Invest in Trust” toolkit from DHHS: Pages 19-25 give you step by step tips for responding to a wide variety of ‘push back’ comments in a peer to peer conversation, using motivational interviewing techniques.

I wish there was time to talk through it all; the big take away is – try, try try the peer to peer route. It may yet make a difference with some of your hesitant hold outs.