Counseling Patients from Marginalized Groups on Vaccine Hesitancy Requires Trust, Historical Context

Pharmacists must first build trust with their communities in order to address vaccine hesitancy, according to Sally Arif, PharmD, BCPS.

In a recent interview with Pharmacy Times, Sally Arif, PharmD, BCPS, associate professor at the Midwestern University College of Pharmacy, said that in order to counsel patients from marginalized groups with vaccine hesitancy, pharmacists must first build trust.

Vaccine hesitancy can be defined in several ways, including as a lack of motivation or a reluctance to receive vaccines. Reluctance can be caused by a historic lack of trust in the medical system, especially among minority groups. In order to effectively counsel these patients, Arif said pharmacists should be aware of historical context, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study or the involuntary sterilization of women in Puerto Rico.

With this context in mind, Arif said pharmacists must then build trust in the community. She recommended getting out from behind the pharmacy counter and working with community leaders, including faith-based leaders or those in local government. Arif said she herself has been participating in local town hall events during which patients can ask questions and voice concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, and can get answers from knowledgeable professionals.