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Telehealth and the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 public health emergency and the vaccine will be an ongoing discussion between you, your patients, and your entire community. This page will give you information and guidelines on talking to your patients about vaccines during telehealth appointments.

Quick resources

Prepare to discuss vaccines

Understand your patient community. It’s helpful to know why your telehealth patients may be hesitant to get the vaccine. A few questions to consider:

  • Does your community have a high or low rate of vaccination?
  • Are there racial, ethnic, or religious barriers in your community that might cause concern about the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • How easy is it to access the vaccine? Are there multiple locations, public transportation, or mobile units?

Be prepared with answers to some of the most common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. These questions include:

  1. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
  2. Why do I need to get two vaccine shots?
  3. Will this vaccine make me sick?
  4. Do I still need to get vaccinated if I already had COVID-19?

Tip: The CDC offers scripts to use when answering these questions and others your patients may have. See: Quick Answers for Healthcare Professionals to Common Questions People May Ask about COVID-19 Vaccines (PDF)

Build trust and communication with patients

Vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective, but the topic can still be stressful for some patients. Plan to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine during each telehealth appointment with an unvaccinated patient.

First, make sure your patient is comfortable with their telehealth setup. That could include a stable Internet connection and privacy to speak freely.

Start your conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine with an open-ended question that doesn’t make assumptions about your patient’s opinions or beliefs. These questions could include:

  • “What are your thoughts on getting a COVID-19 vaccination?”
  • “How are you feeling about the COVID-19 vaccine?”

Listen to your patient’s comments, fears, and questions with empathy. Some patients may be distrustful of the medical field due to past trauma. Others may be fearful of what they have read on social media or heard from a friend or neighbor.

Let your patient know you strongly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine. Ask for permission to share vaccine information with them, rather than just giving it to them. Be honest with your patients about potential side effects, but reassure them that any side effects are typically temporary and mild.

You can discuss common side effects of the vaccine during the telehealth appointment, and offer to email them information after the appointment.

Praise your patient for any safety measures they have been following. This could include wearing a mask, social distancing, washing their hands, or working remotely if they have that choice.

Keep the conversation going. Help your patient set up a vaccine appointment if they agree. Be ready to provide them with additional resources if they wish.

Follow up. If your patient has another telehealth appointment scheduled, ask again whether they want to get vaccinated. You can also follow up with an email, a message through your online patient portal, or even a phone call.

Tip: Use telehealth appointments to follow up with patients after they receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Be prepared to discuss potential side effects.

Additional resources:

Vaccinate with Confidence: Strategies providers can use to build trust and confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine — from the CDC

Pediatric Healthcare Professionals COVID-19 Vaccination Toolkit with information on talking to parents and guardians about COVID-19 vaccinations in children and teens — from the CDC

COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit with resources to share with your patients — from the CDC

Help patients access vaccines

Your patients may need help scheduling their COVID-19 vaccine. Set aside time during your telehealth appointment to offer assistance. Here’s how you can help:

Schedule an appointment for your patient at your office or clinic if your practice or medical group offers COVID-19 vaccines.

Help your patient find a COVID-19 vaccine location near them. Some of your telehealth patients may not be internet savvy or know how to sign up for a vaccine appointment.

See also: Find COVID-19 Vaccines Near You

Be prepared with mobile vaccination information for your telehealth patients who may be homebound or lack transportation.

See also: State and Territorial Health Department Websites

Tell your telehealth patients that COVID-19 vaccines are free. Their income, immigration, or health insurance status does not matter.

Encourage your telehealth patients to report any side effects. There are two options for patients to report side effects:

V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker (CDC)

Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) (HHS.gov)

Fast resource to find the COVID-19 vaccine

To find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine near you:

  • Search vaccines.gov
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829
  • Call 1-800-232-0233
  • Check your local pharmacy’s website to see if vaccination appointments are available. Find out which pharmacies are participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
  • Contact your state health department to find additional vaccination locations in the area.
  • Check your local news outlets. They may have information on how to get a vaccination appointment.
  • Confirm your schedule dates with your vaccine provider and prepare friends and family for their vaccinations.

For additional information:

Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine — from the CDC

Webinar: The Role of Telehealth in Expanding Access to Healthcare During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Considerations for Vaccine Uptake and Monitoring for Adverse Events - from the CDC

Last updated: August 16, 2021

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