Walk Alongside the Community to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy

By Sandra N. Colpitts MSN, RN, CIC, Manager, Infection Prevention and Control, South County Health, Wakefield, RI

When I first became a nurse, I never imagined the adventures I would have in this career. I have had a vast array of experiences including working with pediatric oncology patients, serving tribal groups on medical missions in Africa, and helping people navigate the complex healthcare system as a case manager. My passion, however, is promoting public health to help protect communities, making them resilient to public health threats like the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to join the infection prevention team at a local hospital. I jumped at the chance to implement infection prevention principles that would saves lives and protect our healthcare infrastructure.

The impact of COVID 19 was tragic. While we strived to prevent as many infections as possible, my team anxiously awaited the development of the COVID-19 vaccine which offered us a chance to slow or even stop the spread of COVID-19. These vaccines and subsequent boosters prevented our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, and protected our staff, patients and loved ones. We started seeing a decrease in the severity of the illness and number of hospitalizations.

To be resilient, we must extend our efforts outside the healthcare system to educate the entire community on the benefits of vaccination. I am a firm believer that the best way to do this is to walk alongside our community, discuss their hesitancy and address concerns.

Early in my career, I served on a medical reserve corps team that mobilized a vaccine clinic at a local college during a meningitis outbreak. One student was very anxious about the vaccine. It was a busy clinic, but I took the time to listen to her concerns and discuss the protection the vaccine offered. As a result, she accepted the vaccine and left with a smile. There are many myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, and as public health advocates it is our job to educate the community about how they work with the body’s immune system to slow and stop the spread of diseases such as COVID-19.

During this holiday season, I reflected on how thankful I am for the progress we have made since COVID-19 came into our lives. While it is still here, the threat is being mitigated by our vaccine efforts. I encourage you to take the time to walk alongside your co-workers, patients and loved ones to help promote vaccination against COVID-19.