...how to make sense of all the COVID-19 vaccine news?

Ever Wonder? / May 12, 2021
portrait of Tara Haelle, an independent science journalist
Image attribution
Jim Coventry

Even before the pandemic, it could be difficult to keep up with the news cycle. Now it’s worse than ever and the stakes are even higher. As COVID vaccines become more widely available, we are inundated with headlines about their safety, their effectiveness, and how people feel about getting vaccinated. It can be a lot, and it can get overwhelming.

Do you ever wonder how to make sense of all the COVID-19 vaccine news?

We spoke to Tara Haelle (@tarahaelle), an independent science journalist who’s written about vaccines for a decade, ranging from a comprehensive FAQ on COVID-19 vaccines, to her young adult book Vaccination Investigation: The History and Science of Vaccines. Tara takes an empathetic approach to reporting on vaccines, and she’s got lots of great examples and analogies to help break down the complex and sometimes confusing news around COVID.

Check out Tara’s recent story on how she went with a self-described former anti-vaxxer to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Have a question you've been wondering about? Send an email or voice recording to the podcast team to tell us what you'd like to hear in future episodes.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts. To see a full list of episodes, visit our show’s webpage.


Perry Roth-Johnson (00:00):

Funnily enough, I actually have my appointment to get my second dose of the COVID vaccine this evening.

Tara Haelle (00:05):


Perry Roth-Johnson (00:05):

I know!

Devin Waller (00:05):


Tara Haelle (00:07):

That's my standard reaction to anybody who's getting their vaccine is like excitement. Yay!

Perry Roth-Johnson (00:11):

Right on.

Perry Roth-Johnson (00:18):

Hello! This is Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center. I'm Perry Roth-Johnson. Even before the pandemic, it could be difficult to keep up with the news cycle. Now it's worse than ever and the stakes are even higher. As COVID vaccines become more widely available, we are inundated with headlines about their safety, their effectiveness, and how people feel about getting vaccinated. It can be a lot, and it can get overwhelming. Do you ever wonder how to make sense of all the COVID-19 vaccine news? We spoke to Tara Haelle, an independent science journalist who's written about vaccines for a decade, ranging from her comprehensive FAQ on COVID-19 vaccines, to her young adult book, Vaccination Investigation: The History and Science of Vaccines. Tara takes an empathetic approach to reporting on vaccines, and she's got lots of great examples and analogies to help break down the complex and sometimes confusing news around COVID. Let's get into it. Tara Haelle, you're an independent science journalist and the author of Vaccination Investigation: The History and Science of Vaccines. Tara, welcome to the show!

Tara Haelle (01:29):

Hi, thanks for having me.

Perry Roth-Johnson (01:31):

Yeah! And Devin Waller, my co-host at the California Science Center joins us again. Hi Devin!

Devin Waller (01:35):

Hey Perry, happy to be here. And Tara, thanks for joining us!

Tara Haelle (01:38):

I'm looking forward to it.

Perry Roth-Johnson (01:40):

Tara, we're really excited to talk to you about vaccines today, because as I understand it, you've been covering vaccines and vaccine hesitancy for what—10 years now?

Tara Haelle (01:48):

Almost exactly. Yeah.

Perry Roth-Johnson (01:49):

Before we dive in too deep on the particulars, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your beat? How did you end up covering vaccines 10 years ago?

Tara Haelle (01:57):

Well, it’s very easy for me to track how long I've been covering vaccines because it is directly tied to my son's age. My older son's age. He's 10 years old. He'll turn 11 in June. And what brought me into looking into vaccines was my own journey as a parent. I was having a baby and, uh, I knew that the vaccine schedule was much larger than it had been when I was a kid. You know, there's, I don't know, 15, I think, different immunizations that you get. I try to remember the number off the top of my head. Um, and this was around the time when there was still a lot of headlines trying to connect to vaccines and autism. And there was questions about whether it was true or not true. Um, and actually the year that he was born was the same year that the fraudulent study that was conducted by the researcher who well, the now disgraced researcher and former doctor, who connected autism to the MMR vaccine, that study was formerly retracted that same year. And so it was all kind of converging at once. And I was in grad school at time. So I was in a situation where I actually did have the time to sort of invest in really researching something. I mean, researching was my job at that point. So I was going to be joining a class with one of my professors and I made a deal with him that I would be able to spend the entire semester researching vaccines for my assignment for his class. And that's what I did. And I interviewed, oh gosh, more than a dozen people. I mean, it ended up being my master’s thesis for grad school. But I spoke to the most ardent anti-vaccine activists. I spoke to folks at the CDC. I spoke to vaccine developers. I spoke to ordinary parents. I spoke to school nurses. I mean, I basically covered every base I could. I wanted to understand the landscape because the more I started to read, the more confusing the information was online. And the more I realized how hard it was to tell misinformation from accurate information and that most parents—even super smart parents with graduate degrees and whatever—most parents don't have the scientific foundation to be able to sort those things through or to read those studies and really understand the biased statistics of what's happening. So I set out to sort of immerse myself in that. I even audited an epidemiology class and dove headfirst into the pool of craziness.

Devin Waller (04:19):

What have you learned from your reporting on these topics that have helped you cover the development and distribution of the COVID vaccines during the pandemic?

Tara Haelle (04:27):

Well, in terms of the development, because I had spent so much time looking at childhood vaccines, I knew a lot about how vaccines are developed, how they were, you know... safety is the biggest concern that most parents have about vaccines. So in order to learn about the safety process, I've looked at a lot of studies and I've looked at the development process. So I knew the development process of vaccines inside and out, upside down, long before the COVID vaccine came along. That also meant that I knew who to trust on looking at that. So when, you know, early on when the vaccine was being developed, there was some concern within the scientific community. And even with myself about, "Whoa, are they going too fast with this?" And so there were a lot of eyes on the process. Like looking at what the FDA was doing, what the researchers were doing, what the clinical trials covered to make sure, "Are they cutting corners?" 'Cause we were worried about it. And frankly it was during an administration when cutting corners was not an uncommon thing to occur. So, you know, we wanted to be sure that it was safe and that actually made me much more confident when they were authorized, because I had been tracking it so carefully. And I knew what to look for. I even wrote some articles actually telling other people what to look for. Um, and I was able to follow, you know, the professionals that I trusted in infectious disease and vaccinology and virology. I was able to follow them and see the evolution of their opinions mirroring what I felt. And that was a good affirmation that, okay, I was right to have, to have these concerns and be looking these things, but these things have been taken care of and yes, I'm confident in the vaccine. So by the time the Pfizer vaccine was authorized, I was excited. I could not wait to get a vaccine. I ended up getting Moderna, but I couldn't wait. I think what's helped me even more, though, is understanding vaccine hesitancy because when you first start out writing about this, you think, you know, about vaccine hesitancy and you know, absolutely nothing about vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy to understand it is not hard science like biology. It's a psychological issue. It's a social issue. It's an anthropological issue. And if you don't understand social psychology, social dynamics, um, you know, the psychology of trust, persuasion tactics with rhetoric and especially cognitive biases and the ways that our brains trick us into believing things; If you don't understand those and you don't have empathy for what it's like as a parent or any individual, trying to make sense of, you know, frankly, very foreign information about a topic that you haven't been—you know, last time I was in biology was 11th grade or something like that—you know. Um, if you have empathy for that concern, it makes a lot more sense and you know how to approach it. Instead, a lot of people in the beginning approach this as, "Oh, those stupid anti-vaxxers!" or "Why are these people so stupid? They deserve to die if they won't get a vaccine." And that is completely unhelpful. It is also a form of shaming and shame simply doesn't work. Shame does not motivate people to do things. It makes them shut down. So I think that's what helps me the most was the ability to already have that strong foundation in vaccine hesitancy research and already know social scientists who had been working on it. So that I knew right from the start, how to talk about it and what some of the issues were. And, and frankly, the difference between hesitancy due to access versus hesitancy due to actual hesitancy.

Devin Waller (07:50):


Perry Roth-Johnson (07:51):


Tara Haelle (07:52):

To give one example, I was quite frustrated with the very common, it was sort of a media theme for a while that, "Oh my gosh, the African American community is hesitant and they're all worried about, you know, the history." And there is a very robust history of abuse of African Americans in the American medical system. There's no question about that. I mean, it's, there are very thick books on that.

Devin Waller (08:13):


Tara Haelle (08:13):

That said, the African American community as a whole was not necessarily that much more, like hesitant per se. They may have been more skeptical, but my goodness with that history who wouldn't have been?

Perry Roth-Johnson (08:26):

Right. That's pretty reasonable.

Tara Haelle (08:26):

But the far bigger issue was access, and it still is. Access is still a big issue. If you look at maps for where vaccine centers are in certain cities, you'll see a concentration of vaccine access centers in the wealthier parts of town or the whiter parts of town. And you will see far fewer of them. Or you'll see far fewer drug stores in general. Like there just isn't a Walgreens, or there just isn't a CVS in an area that is predominantly Latino, or an area that is a predominantly Black neighborhood or, you know, just neighborhoods that have lower income. And so I get frustrated when people make assumptions that, "Oh, these people don't want these vaccines." Well, no, if we'd actually go there and give it to them, they'd probably get it. The media did do a course correction on that. But in the beginning there was a lot of conflating of, you know, is this hesitancy or, "Oh my gosh, is this just an access issue?"

Perry Roth-Johnson (09:15):

Right. You know, while we're talking about the media, it's actually a good segue. Um, you've written that poor and uninformed reporting on vaccines is dangerous and has genuine public health repercussions. So we want to help our listeners be more savvy consumers of COVID-19 vaccine media. What advice might you have for consumers of news about the pandemic and vaccines?

Tara Haelle (09:34):

One of the biggest pieces of advice is not to get all of your news from one source. Have a think of your news diet as an actual diet, right? If you just ate popcorn every day or you just ate donuts every day, you're not going to be very healthy. And if you just read one source, even if it's a good source, if you just read one source every day, or whenever you access the news, um, you're not going to have a healthy perspective on all the different things going on. You're not gonna be exposed to different ideas and different ways that things are communicated. So have a diverse news diet. And I would say that that diverse news diet should be made up of a mixture of legacy media, which is, you know, what your parents read, so daily newspapers. Um, I would say that for the most part, if you watch the news section specifically of CNN and BBC, both of those are very good. Um, the other networks are pretty decent, but it really depends. And I'd say what's challenging about television news is that they don't delineate clearly between what's news and what's opinion. So if you turn on Fox news, for example, the actual news channel of Fox is very different than say the Tucker Carlson show.

Perry Roth-Johnson (10:43):


Tara Haelle (10:43):

And people see it all as news, and it's not all news. And that's true of Rachel Maddow versus MSNBC news. It's true on any, on any station. I tell people to be cautious of that. Um, and then there's also a number of internet only sites that I recommend. FiveThirtyEight is great. Vox is great. Quartz is great. And reading from, you know, whenever you see an issue that concerns you, if you read something, I'll give an example. When there was concerns about blood clots being linked to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, I wrote about that issue. But the first thing I did when I wrote about it was I went to Google. I typed in "Johnson and Johnson blood clots", and I hit the news button at the top, so that I wasn't looking at just whatever results came back. I was specifically looking at news results coming back. And then I read, you know, like 10 or 12 articles from different places. I looked at what experts they interviewed. Experts that you want to see interviewed are those who have a specialty in that topic. So for blood clots, I didn't want to talk, I didn't want to hear from a family doctor. I didn't want to hear from a pediatrician. I didn't want to hear from, you know, even a health professional who's in charge of a vaccination program, per se. I wanted to hear from a vaccine developer or from a researcher who has run a vaccine trial, or from researchers who have actually done vaccine safety studies before and they have, PubMed, which is where all the different medical studies are indexed online. You know, I could go to PubMed and type in their name and say, "Oh, they've done 20 studies on this." Um, or they were a hematologist, or they were an ICU doctor who had seen this before and knew the treatment for it. So I really, I'm extremely discriminating and discerning about who their sources are. And that tells me how much due diligence the reporter has done. Um, and I, you know, you can cross reference those too. Um, I also, I've curated my own Twitter lists so that I'm following lots of infectious disease doctors, researchers, epidemiologists, emergency physicians, ICU doctors, pulmonologists and I keep up with a lot of things that way. I think the challenge today with the news is there's so much of it and you just can't keep up, ever. I mean, that's especially true during COVID, but it's been true for years now. And what I do is I trust other people to help me sort through that because I can't possibly read every single headline that's coming out in eight newspapers every day, but , you know, I'll check a couple of newspapers and then I still, I see with on Google news or something, but I, I really rely quite heavily on my network within Twitter and Facebook. Um, because that network has been carefully curated to include people who are educated in these areas and I'm following them, I add that qualifier because there's been some interesting surveys recently finding that people who get most of their news from social media tend to be less educated or less accurately informed about things. So I think it really, your social media diet is only as good as who is in that network.

Perry Roth-Johnson (13:49):


Tara Haelle (13:49):

And if you're not including, I mean, on Facebook, I mean, I don't expect other people to have like a whole bunch of PhD biologists and doctors on their Facebook network. So, Facebook is a little bit different. But on Twitter, I mean on Twitter you can choose to follow those people. That's kind of democratization of that kind of information on Twitter is, has been a really, you know, Twitter has a lot of drawbacks, but I think that's been a really tremendous asset from Twitter. Twitter became far more important to me for my job during the pandemic than at any other time, because it was direct, immediate access to scientists and what they thought about things in real time.

Perry Roth-Johnson (14:25):

Yeah. Totally.

Tara Haelle (14:25):

So that was invaluable.

Perry Roth-Johnson (14:27):

Um, I wonder if we could talk a little bit more specifically about headlines. You know, let's say you're scrolling through your curated Twitter feed and you see a headline. Cause I mean, correct me if I'm wrong but science journalists don't always get final say on the headline of their piece. Right?

Tara Haelle (14:39):

Very true. Most of the time we journalists do not write the headline. Our editors write the headlines.

Perry Roth-Johnson (14:44):

So how can those headlines sometimes be written as clickbait or be misleading? Like what should folks watch out for?

Tara Haelle (14:50):

Well, I mean, part of it is an inevitable result of how our news ecosystem is now. Everybody is striving to get attention. Everybody wants eyeballs and that's how they draw you in. Um, I think it's gotten a little bit better in the past couple of years. I think journalism outlets have recognized that making a headline more directly informative as opposed to clickbait is better. And they're doing that more often, even if people don't click. I'm trying to remember the stats now, but in communication research, there's some huge proportion of people. I know it's more than 50% who never click on an article even before they share it.

Devin Waller (15:31):


Tara Haelle (15:31):

So the headline is all they see. And, uh, there's a lot of dangerous aspects of that because a headline is literally, I mean, it's anywhere from what a five to fifteen-word distillation of what an 800-word story. I mean, imagine someone says, how was the birthday party? And you have to tell them in 8 words, you're not going to capture what the birthday party was like. You just can't. You're going to leave out super important stuff, right? So, uh, you know, one of the things to look for is any headline that seems overenthusiastic in any direction. So anything that sounds like it's an extreme. The words "most" or "least" or "never" or "always", terms like that are red flags because they're rarely true. We don't live in a world extremes. We live in a world of gray, shades of gray. Um, one of the dangers, on the flip side, for the journalists and the editors, is when covering vaccine hesitancy. I became frustrated early on in the pandemic with vaccine hesitancy surveys that they were reporting on because vaccination works on norms. Um, most people get vaccinated because most people get vaccinated. We're social creatures and we want to do what everybody else does. Even if we're rebels, we tend to find our rebel group and do what all our rebel group people do.

Perry Roth-Johnson (16:53):

It's peer pressure.

Tara Haelle (16:53):

So, yeah, no man is an island. So, when you see a headline that says like, you know, "Forty-five percent of people say they don't want to take the vaccine." First of all, that number is not accurate. That number is how many people answered the question of, "Are you certain you want to get the vaccine or not? You know, if they said, "No. They're not positive they want to get the vaccine." Then they fall into that group, right? That group represents the people who will never get the vaccine, people who will wait to get the vaccine until a lot of others have gotten it, the people who aren't sure if they want to get the vaccine and then they decide they do—you know, that's all lumped together. Second, it implies, "Oh my gosh, almost half the country doesn't want it. Maybe I shouldn't get this vaccine." You know, it can plant doubt in people who see those headlines. And early on, we didn't even have a vaccine. People were asking that question and it's like, it's a theoretical vaccine. You can't ask someone if they're going to get vaccine that doesn't exist.

Perry Roth-Johnson (17:49):


Tara Haelle (17:49):

I wouldn't have said I'm going to definitely get the vaccine. Because I'm going to look at the safety data first. Um, so that was a problem early on. But even now, people do not always respond to those surveys with their actual intentions. We are, again, social creatures and there's something called social desirability bias. This is a problem you have to deal with when doing surveys where by asking the question, you are giving the answer that is ideally true, but you're also sometimes influenced by what you think the person wants to hear. So it varies. It's not everybody, but I mean, a good example is the difference between giving teenagers an anonymous survey on their drug and alcohol use versus asking them in person. Which one do you think is going to give you the more honest answer?

Perry Roth-Johnson (18:36):

The anonymous one probably.

Tara Haelle (18:36):

And surveys are asked by people, right? So on the one hand, there's that social desirability bias for the, for the person who's asking the questions. And then on top of that, there's identification with groups. So if there's a certain group that is known to be less enthusiastic about the vaccine and you consider yourself a member of that group, you identify with that group. Whether it's a geographic group, an age or demographic group, a race or ethnic group, a political ideology group, a religious group, you're going to answer what you think others in your group will answer. And it's not that you're lying. You're giving what you think is the right answer, but it doesn't necessarily accurately connect with what your behavior will be. So your attitude toward a vaccine, your intention to get a vaccine and your actual behavior in terms of whether you get a vaccine or not, they do not always line up. They can be all over the place and surveys can't capture that. So there are some... what you want to do is you want to look at peer-reviewed studies, studies that have been published in a journal that have been reviewed by other researchers and have used methods that have been shown in the past to get more accurate information, especially if those are run by people who have followed people through, like, not only do you ask them if they're going to get vaccinated, but you later check up and find out if they got vaccinated. Um, and then you can actually match that up.

Devin Waller (19:59):

So, I have a question about something you mentioned earlier. How do we move away from shaming people who are hesitant about getting vaccines? You know, that is something that we have seen. Um, there tends to be a reaction of groups or people that do not want to get the vaccine or that have a hesitancy. And then the immediate reaction is shame or fear. So what would you suggest to change that?

Tara Haelle (20:24):

Well first of all, you want to listen to the person. They have a concern. What is their concern? If you don't actually open up and listen to what their concern is, you're not helping anyone. So the first thing is, "Tell me what your concerns are." You know, I wouldn't outright say, "Why don't you want to get the vaccine?" 'Cause that sounds judgmental. But you know, there are certain techniques you can use such as, first of all, rephrasing what they say and echoing it back to them so that you let them know that you heard them. So, "I understand that you have some concerns about the vaccine. Can you help me understand what some of those worries are?" And then validate the worries. "Well, I think that went too fast." "Well, yes, in fact, this was the fastest vaccine we've ever approved in history. So I can understand why you're worried that it was approved so fast. But, I also had those concerns. So I went and looked at how it was approved myself to make sure. And let me tell you what I've learned. Are you comfortable hearing what I've learned? Would you like me to tell you what I learned when I was looking at this stuff? Or do you want me to share some stuff with you?" So it should be a genuine, empathetic, compassionate friend conversation where you are trying to truly understand what worries them and you are trying to help them on their own terms. And know when to hold back, right? Don't push too hard. Um, enlist other people who might be helpful. There is an individual in my family who very easily gets fed up with me being the smarty pants, right? "Oh, you just think you're always right." And so, I have to be super cautious about saying anything to this person, because I automatically get grouped into that, "Oh, she's just being a smart aleck again." Or, "She's just being smart. She thinks she knows everything." So I enlisted another two people in my family and said, "Okay, I can't talk to this person about the vaccine. The moment I mentioned it, they're going to have their hackles up. They're not going to talk to me. So you have to talk to them. You have to bring this up and find out if they're vaccinated. And if they're not, why not, and what their worries are. I can't do it. You can ask me for help on the side, but I can't do it." So, you know, knowing the people in your network, um, you know, we all have that smarty pants that we don't want to hear from. We all have the quiet person whose opinion we trust more than everybody else because they seem quieter and they don't judge and they don't share our secrets. You know, everyone has these types of people. So think about who you can enlist to help you. There's actually a term for that. It's called trusted messengers. And that's used a lot with communities like in a church community, for example. The pastor is a trusted messenger, right?

Perry Roth-Johnson (23:02):


Tara Haelle (23:02):

If the pastor is telling you that this is a good thing to do, that getting vaccinated shows and supports the values of our community by helping to protect others, then people in that church community are gonna be more likely to get it. So, um, again, going back to sort of the beginning, though, it all sort of starts with empathy and listening and compassion—you know, coming to that person without judgment. Even if you're secretly judging them. If you're secretly judging them, I'm not going to tell you not to, because we don't have control over those kinds of emotions. You might be screaming inside your head like, "You idiot, why don't you get vaccinated?" But just don't let them see that. I don't want to say it's not. I mean, we all get frustrated sometimes. It's okay to feel frustrated. The trick is, you know, walking away when you need to, and then coming back, you know. And also keep in mind, people do not make these decisions on a dime. They don't make these decisions in one day, you're not going to change. I've had literally dozens of people tell me that my writing or talks over the years have changed their minds. And they went from never vaccinating their child to getting their child all the vaccines. Not a single one of those people made that decision in one day. I just reported on a woman who used to be an anti-vaccine activist. A very, very popular one. I went with her to get her COVID vaccine, uh, two weeks ago.

Perry Roth-Johnson (24:20):


Devin Waller (24:20):


Tara Haelle (24:20):

And I had nothing to do with her conversion. Her conversion was on her, but it took her a full year. The first time she said she was thinking about, "You know, well, maybe one vaccine somewhere has saved one child." She said that in February of 2020, well, January of 2020. She did not post to say, "I'm not anti-vaccine anymore. I'm not pro-vaccine yet, but I'm not anti-vaccine anymore" until January of 2021. So the first crack in her world view about vaccines, that first crack was in January of 2020. And she didn't even reach the point of saying, "I'm no longer anti-vaccine, but I'm not pro-vaccine yet," until January 2021, a full year. Now that's kind of an extreme case because she was a heavy influencer in the anti-vaccine community. But the point is, that it does take time for people to come to these decisions. And we have to respect that and respect that the timetable is different for different people.

Perry Roth-Johnson (25:25):

I've heard a lot of reporting. It says one-on-one conversations can be an effective tool at overcoming hesitancy. So if we have someone in our personal lives that might have questions about getting a vaccine, is there anything you'd recommend we say to them, or should we just encourage them to talk to a doctor? Like what should we do?

Tara Haelle (25:41):

Going back to some things that I said previously, I would, first of all, listen to them. Listen to what they have to say. Before you do anything else, listen. You know, ask them, "What worries you? What are your concerns?" And again, I would not use the "why don't you want to?" because that, that phrasing sounds judgy as it is. But, "Help me understand what worries you most." And you know, again, echo back to them that you heard what their concern is, and you can relate to that concern without validating false information. If someone says to me about the measles vaccine, "I'm worried about autism." I don't have to say, "Oh, I understand why you're worried about autism." I can say, "I can imagine how scary it must be to worry about my child, having a condition that would be challenging for me to manage." Because that's true, right? So I'm still validating what they're saying without validating the idea that autism is connected to the vaccine. So, think about it, you know, listen, show that you're listening, right. And then ask them, "Can I provide some information to you? Would you be willing to read some things if I gave them to you?" And don't send them a list of five links, okay. Send them one link to start with and make it one of my links. No, I'm kidding.

Devin Waller (26:59):

That's fair. Absolutely!

Tara Haelle (27:03):

I did, in fact, write a huge Q&A at Elemental that tries to answer all these different questions about vaccines. The New England Journal of Medicine has a really fantastic FAQ. Also, think about what their values are. If you're talking to someone who has a natural distrust of the government, and there's lots of reasons to distrust our government, okay. I would ask them, do you trust the CDC? And if they don't trust the CDC, don't give them a CDC link. Okay.

Perry Roth-Johnson (27:29):

That makes sense.

Tara Haelle (27:30):

Send them a link from a place they actually trust.

Devin Waller (27:32):

Yeah, that's a good point.

Tara Haelle (27:32):

Ask them, "What do you trust?" I saw a fantastic video just the other day. It was, I don't know how many were in there, maybe eight or nine Republicans who are all physicians or dentists. They're all doctors in Congress and they're all Republicans. And they all were, they were all talking about the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccine and the fact that everybody should get vaccinated. And if I had a friend who was Republican, who voted for Trump, who was distrustful of the Biden presidency, I'm not going to try to convince them that Trump was a bad guy and they should trust Biden. I'm going to go get this video of the Republican doctors that they already trust and share that with them. And then, you know, if they want more information from a medical journal. A lot of times the people say that they think there's a government conspiracy in the United States where the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies and the CDC are all in it together. "Okay. Let me show you something from the National Health Service in England, where they have a socialized medical system, and there is no advantage for them to lie." You know, so find sources that are going to fit with what they trust and what their values are, and, you know, provide those sources to them. And don't push too hard, you know, wait a couple of weeks. "Hey, have you thought more about that? Do you have any more questions?" Those are the kinds of things that are helpful and you may have to accept also picking your battles and cutting your losses. You're going to lose some battles, right? And sometimes you just need to know when to quit. You just might not win. And you have to decide what that means to you. You can be honest about how you feel about things without threatening them in a way, like, "You know, I really want to hang out with you. And I love you and I trust you. And I don't want you to feel like I'm telling you, you have to do something, but I personally don't feel comfortable hanging out with you in person until either you're vaccinated or the pandemic is over." You know, don't make it like it's a conditional thing. Like, "You have to get vaccinated for me to be your friend."

Devin Waller (29:33):

Like an ultimatum.

Tara Haelle (29:33):

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, cause that's not gonna make them, that's not going to work. But if you tell them like, "Hey, I love you. And I'm not trying to tell you. I respect, if you don't want to get the vaccine, you don't want to get the vaccine, but I personally just don't feel comfortable until either you're vaccinated or COVID is not out there.

Devin Waller (29:48):


Tara Haelle (29:48):

Right. So make it clear that it's not about them. It's about the disease.

Perry Roth-Johnson (29:53):

Well, Tara, um, I know we were joking earlier about, you know, sending your articles around, but where can people follow you online and find your work?

Tara Haelle (30:01):

Um, I am on Medium. I write regularly for Medium and you can find all of my Medium articles. That's where probably the majority of my vaccine stuff is. Um, and I am pretty active on Twitter and I always tweet out the articles that I write. So if you find me on Twitter at @tarahaelle, so @t-a-r-a-h-a-e-l-l-e. And if you want to know who I'm following, you can look at my lists or look at who I'm following and, you know, add a bunch of infectious disease experts to your own following.

Perry Roth-Johnson (30:29):

Right on. Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you, Tara. Thanks for joining us on the show.

Tara Haelle (30:32):

Thank you.

Devin Waller (30:33):

Thank you, Tara. It's been great.

Perry Roth-Johnson (30:35):

That's our show, and thanks for listening! Until next time, keep wondering. Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center is produced by me, Perry Roth-Johnson, along with Devin Waller. Liz Roth-Johnson is our editor. Theme music provided by Michael Nickolas and Pond5. We'll drop new episodes every other Wednesday. If you're a fan of the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts—it really helps other people discover our show. Have a question you've been wondering about? Send an email or voice recording to [email protected], to tell us what you'd like to hear in future episodes.