This article is part of a series of explainers on vaccine development and distribution. Learn more about vaccines — from how they work and how they’re made to ensuring safety and equitable access — in WHO’s Vaccines Explained series.

Vaccines are supported by decades of medical research. They work by preparing the body’s own immune system to recognise and defend against a specific disease. The volume of information available about vaccination can be overwhelming, so it’s important to talk through the topic.

It’s normal to have questions about vaccines and want to make the right decision for you and your loved ones. If someone you know — a friend, family member or colleague — asks questions or expresses concern about vaccines, listen to them, acknowledge their feelings and offer correct information if you can. Be ready to suggest reputable sources of information if they want to learn more.

This article is focused on discussing COVID-19 vaccines but its core lessons are relevant to other vaccines.

How to have conversations about vaccination

1. Listen with empathy

2. Ask open-ended questions

3. Share trusted information

You can visit the WHO website to find answers to common questions on vaccination, COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 vaccine safety. You can also check your local health department website or consult with other trusted and expert sources such as your doctor or nurse.

4. Explore reasons for wanting to get vaccinated

Talk to them about how getting vaccinated against COVID-19 could offer a path back to normalcy. Explain the benefits of vaccination, whether it’s being able to visit family and friends again, return to the office, get children back to school, spend time with classmates or other interactions and activities that have been strained because of COVID-19.

If you previously had concerns that you worked through, and ended up getting vaccinated against COVID-19, share what helped reassure you.

Describe how vaccination will help protect you, your family and your community and bring back the activities and pleasures of life that we’ve gone without.

How organizations and vaccinators can help boost vaccine confidence

1. Lead by example

2. Build trust

Vaccines are safe, effective and an important part of the COVID-19 response — but stopping the spread of disease remains key. Remind people that they should keep taking other precautions, such as physical distancing, wearing a mask, keeping rooms well ventilated, avoiding crowds, cleaning hands, and coughing into a bent elbow or tissue.

3. Break down barriers

Meanwhile, local civil society organizations and community groups can help people to make vaccination appointments, organize transport or offer any other assistance that might help make it easy for someone to get vaccinated.

Conversations go a long way in sustaining vaccine confidence

Vaccination will help keep you, your family and your community safe from COVID-19, and will bring us all closer to doing the things we love with the people we care about.

By having thoughtful and kind conversations with people about vaccines and vaccination, you’re making a significant contribution to public health — thank you!

This article was first published on WHO’s website on 19 May 2021.

Explore the full vaccine explainer series.

Further Reading:

WHO’s Science in 5 series sees our experts answer commonly asked questions

‘What you need to know’ about COVID-19 vaccines:

Janssen (J&J)

Moderna

Oxford/AstraZeneca

Pfizer/BioNTech

Sinopharm

Sinovac

Official Medium channel of the World Health Organization, the United Nations' health agency