Talking Points for Health Care Leaders to Encourage Vaccine Confidence

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Building vaccine confidence in health systems and clinics

Vaccines are here now and everyone age 5 and older can get them. Find vaccines near you at An important way to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates is building vaccine confidence among nurses within health systems, medical practices, and clinics.

These talking points can be used by leadership to increase vaccine confidence with their nurses.

Start from a place of empathy and understanding

  • The pandemic has been stressful for everyone, especially on nurses and health care workers.
  • The first step is to acknowledge the disruption COVID-19 has caused in all our lives and provide a space to discuss common concerns about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

Available COVID-19 vaccines

  • All available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19.
  • To get the most protection from the vaccines, you need all the recommended doses:
    • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require 2 initial doses.
    • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine requires 1 initial dose.
  • If you’re age 18 or older, you can choose which COVID-19 vaccine to get; CDC has issued a preference for people to get an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna).
  • If you meet the criteria for having a compromised immune system, you should get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least 4 weeks after your second dose.
  • All vaccinated people 12 and older should get a booster shot as soon as you’re eligible to keep up your protection against COVID-19. See the latest guidance on boosters.

How the available COVID-19 vaccines work

  • Two kinds of vaccines are available for use in the United States to protect you from the virus that causes COVID-19: mRNA (which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid) and viral vector vaccines.
  • Both kinds of COVID-19 vaccines essentially do the same thing:
    • They provide the genetic instructions for your cells to make a harmless piece of the virus called a spike protein (your cells are like 3D printers for proteins).
      • The presence of these proteins in your body resembles an infection and triggers your immune system.
      • In the process, your immune system learns how to recognize and attack the virus without ever being exposed to the real virus.
    • Neither kind of COVID-19 vaccine changes or interacts with your DNA in any way.

Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines

  • It’s common to have mild side effects after getting vaccinated. It’s especially common after the second dose of the mRNA vaccines.
  • Possible side effects include:
    • Soreness or swelling at the injection site
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Fatigue
    • Headache
  • These side effects are signs that your immune system is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s working and building up protection against the virus.
  • We’ve seen no trends of serious or long-term side effects. Side effects usually last a few days at most.


  • The COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States meet the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety and effectiveness. Tens of millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines, and all COVID vaccines will continue to be monitored for safety.
  • Serious health effects from vaccines are very rare. It’s highly unlikely that COVID-19 vaccines will cause long-term health problems. Also, there is no evidence at all that they will cause infertility or cancer.
  • Your risk for serious health problems is much lower from the vaccine than your risk if you’re unvaccinated and get COVID-19. COVID-19 can leave you with heart and lung damage and other conditions that require long-term treatment. Vaccines are much safer paths to immunity than the disease itself.

Vaccine distribution

  • The federal government supervises a centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The CDC orders all vaccines.
  • Vaccination providers receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer.
  • States and jurisdictions across the United States are using different Web-based applications for vaccination clinic management.

Getting vaccinated

  • Vaccines are here now, and everyone age 5 and older can get them. You have three ways to find vaccines near you:
    • Go to
    • Text your ZIP code to 438829
    • Call 1-800-232-0233

After I’m fully vaccinated, do I need to continue to wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart from people who don’t live with me?

  • If you’re fully vaccinated (2 weeks after your final dose), you can participate in many of the activities that you did before the pandemic. To maximize protection from highly contagious variants and prevent possibly spreading COVID to others, wear a mask inside public places if you’re in an area of substantial or high spread of COVID-19.
  • If you’re not yet vaccinated, you should continue to:
    • Wear a mask when inside public places.
    • Keep at least 6 feet part from people who don't live with you and who may not be vaccinated.
    • Avoid crowds.
    • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Vaccinated and unvaccinated people must still follow federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial laws, rules, and regulations. That includes public transportation, airport/airplane, local business, and workplace guidance.

People with compromised immune systems need extra doses of a COVID-19 vaccine

  • People with compromised immune systems are less able to fight infections. If any of the following apply to you, you may not be fully protected from COVID-19 even if you’ve received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s or Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine:
    • You have a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency disorder, such as DiGeorge syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome.
    • You have an advanced or untreated HIV infection.
    • You’ve ever had an organ transplant or had a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years.
    • You’re being treated with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medicines for such conditions as arthritis, asthma, or an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, sarcoidosis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.
    • You’re being treated for cancer.
  • To get the most benefit from the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, people with compromised immune systems should get a third dose. Wait at least 4 weeks after you get your second dose to get your third dose. 
  • You should also continue to follow current COVID-19 prevention measures until your health care provider says it’s safe for you to stop:
    • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth around people you don’t live with and when inside public places.
    • Stay at least 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with.
    • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available.

Empowering your workforce

  • Empower nurses by helping them to feel confident in their decision to get vaccinated and to recommend vaccination to their patients. This is the element that is most important for your discussion.
  • Empowering Tactics:
    • Engage local and national professional associations, health systems, and health care personnel often and early to ensure a clear understanding of the vaccine development and approval process, new vaccine technologies, and the benefits of vaccination.
    • Ensure your practice(s) is equipped to create a culture that builds confidence in COVID-19 vaccination.
    • Strengthen the capacity of nurses to have empathetic vaccine conversations, address myths and common questions, provide tailored vaccine information to patients, and use motivational interviewing techniques when needed.

Five strategies for building COVID-19 vaccine confidence among health care personnel

  • Encourage senior leaders to be vaccine champions.
  • Host discussions where personnel at different levels can provide input and ask questions.
  • Share key messages with staff through emails, break room posters, and other channels.
  • Provide information and resources to health care teams about COVID-19 vaccines, how they’ve been developed and monitored for safety, and how teams can talk to others about the vaccines.
  • Make the decision to get vaccinated visible and celebrate it.

Use the tools available

  • There are several materials on the CDC website like toolkits that include posters, fact sheets, and social media content that you can use to increase vaccine confidence in your clinic or facility.
  • For more information and to view the toolkits, visit


The FDA and CDC have the highest standards when it comes to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Their process includes the following procedures:
  • Scientists must first test vaccines extensively in medical studies to ensure they are safe and effective.
  • Before the FDA authorizes a vaccine for use among the public, it ensures its safety by independently:

    • Reviewing the data from the medical studies, and
    • Inspecting the manufacturing facilities.
  • Even after a vaccine has been authorized, the FDA and CDC closely monitor vaccine administration to identify even rare side effects or reactions.
  • The FDA and CDC closely review any reports of side effects or reactions and share these facts with the public.

The extremely rare cases of blood clotting and Guillain-Barré Syndrome following Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine and heart inflammation following Pfizer-BioNTech’s and Moderna’s vaccines—a very small number of cases out of millions of vaccinations—show that the FDA and CDC’s vaccine safety monitoring systems work and catch even the rarest reactions.

Thorough investigations have confirmed that all three available vaccines are safe and effective. However, CDC prefers most people get the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

The monitoring systems ensure that doctors are notified to watch for signs of serious reactions, no matter how rare, and are aware of proper courses of treatment.

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