'What’s Driving Your Decision?' New Webinar Series Dispels Myths Around COVID-19 Vaccination
A new webinar series called “What’s Driving Your Decision?” takes on the myths and fears about the COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to spread accurate, understandable information.
The Center for Children’s Health, led by Cook Children’s, developed the seven-video project along with three partner agencies: Tarrant County Public Health, the Early Learning Alliance and the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC). The videos feature leaders from diverse professional, racial and religious backgrounds who talk about the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines. But they also speak from the heart in sharing their personal and relatable experiences.
The series showcases several doctors from Cook Children’s as well as Dr. Kenton Murthy, assistant medical director at Tarrant County Public Health. The physicians explain the vaccine’s development and its safe and effective track record. You’ll also see and hear from nonmedical people too, including clergy and promoters of day care and parenting education – and even the chief of the Fort Worth Fire Department. The videos come across with respect and empathy that acknowledges the complexities involved in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.
“We’re living in a very politically polarized time right now, and this is a very sensitive topic for a lot of people,” said Breanna Anderson, program manager for the Center for Children’s Health. “And so the fact that they were willing to speak out as leaders in their own community and speak about their own perspective, it was really brave on their part.”
Some of the panelists on video #4, for instance, discuss why they initially felt suspicious and opposed to the vaccine. Other panelists discuss how they jumped at the chance to get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. They talk about rumors on social media, objections from a religious standpoint, and lack of trust rooted in historical instances of racism in health care. The panel discussion was facilitated by Cook Children’s own Chief Diversity Officer Winifred King.
Anderson said the videos give viewers access to a candid dialogue among people representing various perspectives. The webinar aims to provide factual content in plain language to help viewers make an informed decision.
“We need to be prepared to educate our folks and get them answers to the questions they’re asking, and then provide encouragement and support,” said Fire Chief Jim Davis on video #4, who called the vaccine “the right thing to do. It provided me with a little bit more of a sense of security. I wasn’t somebody who could do my work from home.”
Or consider Misty Wilder, program director at the UNTHSC’s Healthy Start, who said she hesitated at first because she worried about possible side effects. Now fully vaccinated, she speaks out as an example to the pregnant women and new moms at Healthy Start. “For me, I’m leading the way for my team, because my team is those younger people who say, ‘I ain’t getting it,’” Wilder said on the video.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 65.7% of Americans have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC recommends the vaccine for people ages 12 and up. Doses are free and available at retail pharmacies and other locations. In a pilot program at Cook Children’s, three pediatrician offices in the network now offer the vaccine to eligible patients. But the vaccination rate has slowed in recent months even as virus variants became more widespread. Click here to find a vaccine near you.
Information about the vaccines can be confusing, and people need help sorting it out, which is where the idea for the webinar originated. Back in March, Dr. J’Vonnah Maryman, associate director for Family Health Services at Tarrant County Public Health, pitched the suggestion to the Center for Children’s Health as a collaboration. Dr. Maryman proposed a video that would target parenting educators and daycare operators, who could then explain the vaccine’s benefits to their clients.
“It was a train-the-trainer sort of concept, but we needed it to be at a level that was relatable and not too technical that people didn’t feel comfortable passing the information along,” she said. “A lot of information is still shared by word of mouth.”
The scope of the project grew when the collaborators realized they needed more than one video to address a range of vaccine issues. They saw the webinar series as filling an information gap and potentially reaching a wider audience, distributed through organizations and faith groups. So they drew up these goals:
- Provide reliable information and practical resources
- Answer questions and acknowledge the obstacles for some people, such as language barriers or lack of transportation to a vaccine site
- Include a diverse mix of presenters
- Make the videos short, accessible online, and easy to understand
Video #1, for instance, features Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cook Children’s. Dr. Whitworth explains some of the technical concepts – spike proteins, antibodies, clinical trials – using illustrations and conversational wording: “Just to compare it for you … Look at this top bar with me … The point of this slide is to let you know …”
Other videos in the webinar series cover topics such as how to find a vaccine site in Tarrant County and what to expect afterward. Video #5 addresses some of the popular myths, including claims that the vaccine causes infertility or gives you COVID-19 (no and no).
Dawn Hood-Patterson, Ph.D., program manager for the Center for Children’s Health, praised the presenters for not trivializing the myths. “They weren’t flippant about it. They didn’t brush it off as silly,” she said. “They spoke about it seriously not only from their expertise as a professional, but they spoke from their expertise as a human being.”
The webinar intentionally includes people of different races and walks of life in order to appeal to a wide audience. Why? Because representation matters, and viewers need to trust and connect to the presenters on the screen. When it came to religion, for instance, the videos included the perspectives of a Baptist pastor, a Catholic bioethics professor, a Muslim imam and a hospital chaplain.
“Do your research. Pray for our government. Seek wise counsel. Engage in conversation with those around you who have different opinions. Listen with integrity,” advised Pam Foster, director of pastoral care at Cook Children’s, on video #5.
Developers of the webinar series hope the information helps not only the undecided unvaccinated crowd, but also those who already are vaccinated when it comes to explaining the vaccine’s benefits. Advocates for the vaccine can learn to approach the subject with greater understanding.
The series “gives me a good tool when I speak to people in the community who are less interested, who are hesitant, who are resistant to the vaccine,” Dr. Hood-Patterson said. “It’s given me the capacity to think more critically about how do I address the issue of vaccination with the people I come into contact with.”
An overview video in Spanish is in the works, with a version in Vietnamese under consideration. Closed captioning is available.
Anderson said that the cooperation by the Center for Children’s Health and its three other partners in the webinar series shows the benefit of working together. Stronger relationships and better rapport can develop among the groups, for the good of everyone involved.
“It’s a huge thing to move toward not working in silos within our own areas,” she said. “We’re able to elevate all of our programs across the board to better serve our community.”
Watch the “What’s Driving Your Decision?” training webinar series here: https://centerforchildrenshealth.org/events
The Center for Children's Health, led by Cook Children's, is home to the Community-wide Children's Health Assessment & Planning Survey (CCHAPS), Community Health Outreach and Community Health Research. The center's goal is to create aligned collaborations that will allow us to make our North Texas region one of the healthiest places to raise a child.