The Unvaccinated as Toddlers

Another approach to persuasion.

from PxHere

Yesterday, I was chastised for referring to eligible adults who refuse to get the COVID vaccine as “sociopaths,” in that the group is diverse and have myriad reasons. Besides, I was told, calling people “sociopaths” (or, as one regular helpfully suggested, “cretins”) is unlikely to persuade them.

This morning, Yahoo offers us a “Professor’s advice for convincing unvaccinated people to get the COVID vaccine” and it sparked an epiphany.

On The Week With Joshua Johnson Sunday, Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ken Resnicow explained how to convince unvaccinated people to get the COVID-19 vaccine using a technique called motivational interviewing. Millions of Americans are still refusing to be vaccinated despite a surge in cases due to the Delta variant.

“Most of the advice that we offer, people have already heard about and rejected already, and so it’s more of a nuisance factor,” Resnicow said. “And until we first establish some rapport with the person — let them express their concerns, in this case bring you back to the vaccine, their concerns about getting the vaccine — until you’ve drained that swamp of negativity, until you’ve allowed them to discharge their resistance energy, advising them and even informing them is premature. We have to first try to neutralize that resistance.”

To put it simply, according to Resnicow, the important first step is to listen to whatever grievances and concerns a person has about the vaccine, and let them know they’ve been heard, using reflective statements.

“Let them express their anger, their mistrust, their doubts, and then reflect it back with ‘you statements,'” Resnicow said. “‘You’re worried that the government is trying to force this on people. You don’t trust the public health system. You’re not convinced that the disease is as scary as people say.’ Those ‘you statements’ without judgement, without trying to persuade, send a meta-message that I’m trying to understand you, I’m not gonna judge you and I’m not gonna push you.”

While Resnicow said anger and frustration at the unvaccinated is understandable, expressing that anger in a hostile manner toward them, as some have done, will do nothing to help the situation.

“We know from hundreds of randomized trials that that type of communication, guilt and shame or pressure, are not gonna move the unpersuaded. We have to do things like affirm. Things like, ‘You really care about understanding this vaccine. You’ve really tried to figure it out. You value your independence. God is important to you.’ It’s important to establish that bridge between you two before you try to persuade or in any way inform,” Resnicow said. “And we understand it takes some psychological discipline because human nature is aligned with what you (Johnson) just said, where some people are getting frustrated with the unvaccinated. It’s not gonna help.”

This is literally the same advice pediatricians and child psychologists give us for talking to toddlers.

Your ability to focus your attention, remember instructions, and control impulses comes from your executive function skills. But guess who doesn’t have those executive function skills yet? Your toddler.


How many times do we have to tell our toddlers? The answer is over and over (and over) again. For a toddler brain to learn, they need that repetition.


As adults, we’ve learned that when you feel a negative emotion, it’s best to stop, think it through, and then carefully decide how to react. (Still, even after a lifetime of feeling those negative emotions, sometimes we still react without thinking – by lashing out or shutting down!)

But the part of the brain that’s capable of stopping, thinking, and deciding how to react isn’t fully developed in toddlers yet. And so when toddlers feel a negative emotion, that emotion takes over. This is one of the biggest reasons toddlers throw temper tantrums.


In the middle of a tantrum, don’t ask questions, don’t use logic, and don’t tell your toddler, “That’s not important.” In fact, the maybe-I-can-talk-some-sense-into-her approach will probably intensify the tantrum and make it last even longer because your toddler will not feel heard. Focus on validating your child’s emotion first, then when everyone is calm you can tell the story of what happened and build those brain connections for the future.


Sometimes it feels like your toddler is out to get you. But even though it feels that way, she isn’t purposely trying to make a mess, make you late, or keep you up all night.

Toddlers learn best through experience. And they need lots of life experiences to fully learn a lesson.


And unfortunately for us as the parents who would rather not clean half a quart of milk off the kitchen counter, there is no shortcut to learning. In order for our toddlers to learn, they have to make mistakes.


Another danger of trying to correct and control your toddler all the time is that your toddler ends up hearing “no” an awful lot throughout the day. She may feel like she can’t do anything right, and she may feel incredibly frustrated when she can’t do anything the way she wants to.


To avoid overreacting and making your toddler feel shame for making her own decision, first try to connect with your toddler on why she made that decision. That way, you can let her know that there’s nothing wrong with how she felt, then you can set the limit.

Think, “kind first, then firm.” For example: “You were excited to see that shiny coin, and you wanted to grab it! But it’s my job to keep you safe, and running across the street can hurt your body. Next time, hold my hand tight when we cross the street, no matter what.”

It all makes sense now.

FILED UNDER: Parenting, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Somehow or other, I don’t think “Because I said so.” is going to be all that persuasive.

  2. CSK says:

    I’m not sure that people who believe “the elites” are determined to inject them with what they now call “Biden poison” are persuadable by any means.

  3. Scott says:

    Can’t care anymore. And they are not my toddlers.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Have to say I’m w/@Scott: on this and trending toward Duterte on those eligible for the vaccines.

    There is a vaccine drama going on in my extended family. The in-laws of one of my brother’s kids refuse to be vaccinated and that child and spouse are refusing to allow them to see their grandchildren, including one born during Covid. It has me shaking my head and wondering what type of craziness leads you to adopt a behavior that results in not seeing your grandkids?

  5. Unsympathetic says:

    We don’t “Have To Reach Them.” Burden’s on them to care about themselves. They’re the party of personal responsibility, after all.

    They don’t want to live — so let them die. Yes, I said it: Let them die.

    Facts don’t care about their feelings.

  6. KM says:

    And what do you do after all that work to calm the toddler, reason and reassure them their feelings are valid and nobody’s out to hurt them but they still do the damn problematic thing anyways? You just exert your will over theirs since you’re the adult and you know better – you are responsible for their welfare and don’t let them keep doing stupid things in order to make themselves feel better. The toddler’s not swallowing that Tide pod not matter what on my watch even if I have to rip it out of their hands, pick them up kicking and screaming by the back of their shirts and tossing them out of them room.

    We keep trying to dance around the blatantly obvious – they not going to choose to the do the right thing until something *bad* happens by their standards…. and maybe not even then. They are the kid that just keep trying to eat that Tide pod in a house you are not allowed to baby-proof or hide the detergent. We cannot take any means to circumvent their will as they are considered equal to us; all we can do is tired ourselves out running around screamin’ “Don’t Touch That!!” fifty times a day or get frustrated as we try to reason with a toddler only for them to go right back to what they were doing without a care.

    This line of logic only works if you can ultimately use force as a fallback for when the soft touch fails. An adult that tries to reason with a toddler unsuccessfully can just say screw it and handle it old-school with The Boss of You. We can’t do that – we can’t physically force them, take things away or put them in time out without serious social repercussions from them America’s apparently too chicken to face. We need to grow a spine and start remember the Vaxxed are the adults in the room and damnit, we’re not dealin’ with this anymore. Onto the naughty step you go!

  7. Lounsbury says:

    @Unsympathetic: The reason for concern is not such person in themselves (the Duarte sentiment otherwise holds), but as disease factories producing more potential for mutation. See Delta Varient.

    That said, probably the most significant risk for emergent mutation is in the developing world, so efforts to bring vaccination rates up globably are perhaps a prudent use of resources over begging the Cretin Class to get vaccinated.

  8. Mimai says:

    Motivational interviewing is tried and true. My group is using it in two of our current clinical trials. MI is especially helpful for substance use problems (which, like COVID, also have externalities). And especially especially helpful during times of crisis (eg, in an emergency room after an alcohol related car crash). In many ways, COVID is tailor made for MI. As we say in the biz, roll with the resistance.

    Ps, MI is mostly used with adults. So while I sense a not insignificant amount of snark in the OP, I consider this movement in the right direction. Good on you James; here’s a cookie 🙂

  9. KM says:

    Has it been proven to work with conspiracy theories and delusions/ cult deprogramming?

    The other circumstance you describe are people who may understand they need help or to change but might be too proud or uncertain to reach out. They want to get better or make negative circumstance stop, even if they don’t acknowledge the source of the pain or it’s reasons. “I don’t have a problem” still acknowledges there’s a problem in the first place; they’re not telling you meth is a hoax in the middle of an fatal OD or there was no car crash, those people died from spontaneous crushing syndrome (if they weren’t really crisis actors!). So many of these folks are committed to their narrative because otherwise it means terrible things: the world is the middle of a deadly, barely-controlled plague they’re helping to spread and their chosen political / cultural group has been straight up lying to them for years now for selfish reasons and doesn’t care if they die. That they are Wrong with a capital W. Getting the shot means conceding that’s reality and it’s just easier to live in Denial Town.

    I do appreciate someone using Me-statements are they really are a good communication tool everyone should use. Americans need to get better at talking to each other in more supportive and effective ways. However, we must also understand you cannot always reason with someone; they have to be able to understand you and frankly be on the same page for it to work. An autistic child mid-meltdown isn’t going to give a damn about logic and validating the feelings of someone in a psychotic break may calm them but won’t necessarily make them cooperative. The number of people we can still reach is dwindling down rapidly – the rest are going to be those who need to experience tragedy firsthand for it to sink in.

  10. Not the IT Dept. says:

    So now we have to toddler-proof the whole damn country? Yeah, how about this: we wait until end of year and see how many of these “adults” are still around and deal with the survivors. They might be more willing to listen. Although I doubt it, nor do I care.

    And for grandparents who won’t vaccine even to see grandchildren? The parents should ask themselves if these are really the kind of grandparents they want around their kids anyway.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Never had kids and didn’t do elementary school if I could avoid it exactly because I’m not interested in acquiring this skill.

  12. Mimai says:


    I am not aware of the literature on MI for conspiracy theories or cult deprogramming. I do know that it has been used – typically as a component of a multipronged approach – for delusions stemming from a psychotic disorder.

    I don’t agree that the other situations (e.g., substance use) necessarily entail knowledge of a problem or understanding that help is needed. In fact, MI is explicitly used with people who deny these very things.

    And I would submit that the neurobiology of substance use makes it an especially difficult nut to crack. And yet MI is backed by tons of evidence. To be sure, it’s not a panacea. But I think that’s an unrealistic bar for things as complicated as substance use… or vaccine hesitancy/resistance.

    I will reiterate a point I’ve made all along. Those who are vaccine hesitant/resistant are not a monolith. They are not all culties, reality deniers, or dare I say sociopaths. Acknowledging this fact is key to making progress. And yet it is repeatedly dismissed in order to focus on the worst of the worst.

    Don’t get me wrong, I too have disdain for that subgroup. I am not suggesting that we focus on them. Rather, I am saying that there are people who are much more readily reachable. They should be our focus.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:


    Let’s accept that MI will work, how does it get implemented to influence the behavior of 40% of the populous? Particularly when the professional anti-vaxxers will be pointing out that this is an attempt to manipulate the resistant.

    As I understand MI, it is used successfully in, at least, semi-controlled environments, be it a counseling session or therapy group.

  14. dmichael says:

    I’m confused. I thought I was supposed to be “nice” to the vaccine resisters so that they might be convinced. Now I am told to treat them like toddlers or drug addicts.

  15. Jay L Gischer says:

    The advice James posted in the OP is really, really good advice. I know this because of the contact/work I’ve done with mental health issues. It works very well. People use motivational interviewing (with adults!) in the medical field all the time.

    No, it is not a guaranteed success. You have to be willing to live with that. But then neither is yelling at people.

    Now, many of y’all have good reason to be angry and hurt, and those issues are important. I’m not saying they aren’t. And that probably needs to be dealt with before you could do this with an anti-vaxxer.

  16. Mimai says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Important question. Let me make two additional points before addressing it. (1) MI should not be considered a technique. Rather, it’s best considered a mode of engagement. (2) As such, MI can be used in any context, not just formal or semi-controlled ones.

    Ok, to your question. Ignore the professional anti-vaxxers. They have no bearing on how we interact with people informally (in person, online, etc). I’m going to link to several resources in this and subsequent comments. Hopefully the moderator gods will look kindly on me.

    There are two books that I frequently recommend to help folks wrap their heads around MI.
    Book 1. Book 2.

  17. Mimai says:


    Here’s a resource that I’ve suggested to many of my primary care colleagues who know nothing about MI but struggle to communicate with their patients who show “destructive” behavioral patterns.

    Here’s a much shorter overview and tips document.

  18. Mimai says:


    And here’s a website with lots of additional resources.

    And another website.

  19. Mimai says:


    And one more workbook for good measure.

    I’ll stop there and get back to my day job.

  20. Modulo Myself says:

    While Resnicow said anger and frustration at the unvaccinated is understandable, expressing that anger in a hostile manner toward them, as some have done, will do nothing to help the situation.

    This is that weird passive-aggressive thing where being derogatory is ignored. Calling someone an a–hole is what it sounds like. If I think you’re an a–hole, I don’t want to help you. That wasn’t why I wanted to call you an a–hole.

    If I pay somebody 200/hr to listen to my nonsense, they’re going to read some books about my nonsense so they can help me. But expecting this of normal people just dealing with their own lives is bizarre. I suspect that many anti-vaxxers could be reached by people paid 200/hr to reach them if we lived in a country with a functioning health care system which is actually about your health vs one that is composed of various institutions charging each other 10K back and forth for CAT scans. But we don’t. And one party has devoted itself to stopping this from happening.

  21. ImProPer says:

    “This morning, Yahoo offers us a “Professor’s advice for convincing unvaccinated people to get the COVID vaccine” and it sparked an epiphany.”

      James, your method of simply calling the anti- vaxxers “sociopaths” is a better one than a “professor” giving quasi- psychiatric advice to the general public engaged in a so-called “culture war”. Said advice will undoubtedly serve more as a source of self-righteousness for the would be adult, than education for any unenlightened “toddlers”. This is yet another example of why the voice our modern  experts is met nowadays with reflexive mistrust.
    The industry I work in is overwhelmingly Republican. Among my coworkers I find that encouraging skepticism, coupled with my experience getting vaccinated has had a positive effect. People simply do not realize they are being stupid by being told so (especially by a perceived partisan), but by quality research and experience, too often dulled by relentless propaganda.

  22. MarkedMan says:


    They don’t want to live — so let them die. Yes, I said it: Let them die.

    People say the same thing about drug addicts and alcoholics.

    Public health is about the common good. Yes, it’s about reaching the people behaving ridiculously, but it’s also about doing what it takes to stop a pandemic. As Lounsbury points out, it’s not enough that the vaccinated are safe for the moment. Public health calls for eradicating the possibility of variations rendering that moot. And that means getting a much higher percentage vaccinated.

  23. Modulo Myself says:

    Honestly, the idea that everyone has to behave like a trained therapist just to deal with anti-vaxxers is like saying we should be training children to be prepared for school shootings. There are other, more sane solutions. But we’ve built a world of gimmicks, nudges, and tricks because we can’t have sane solutions.

  24. steve says:

    Not as impressed with MI as Mimai but then I mostly do acute, inpatient care. Probably better for PCPs. That said, I agree that if your goal is to change people making fun of them is not the way. It doesn’t work for the substance abusers, the people who never see their doctor until it is almost too late, the non-compliant, etc. You have to treat people professionally. In this particular case I dont think MI or much of anything will make a big dent. These people get too much positive reinforcement for their bad ideas. That is not usually the case.

    That said, I totally understand the need to vent and for the most part think it is a good thing. Some of these people are incredibly frustrating. You go home hours later because these people are hard to work with, and then they threaten to sue you on top of it. Best to get it off your chest. That is best done in private at home or with other medical people. That is for people in the trade. At this site? Heck, it is the internet. Go for it. The anti vaxxers are already convinced it is a plot and you hate them, or something.


  25. KM says:

    @Modulo Myself:
    It also doesn’t address the fact that they are indeed an a-hole. Talking around it, deigning to ignore it in favor a more beneficial outcome or setting it aside since you can’t do anything about it doesn’t change the basic fact that they are operating from the a-hole position. It doesn’t change the fact that you are essentially telling the person being victimized they need to better at dealing the situation since the responsibility and agency are all on them.

    You can’t change them, you can only change you is remarkably frustrating for someone dealing with someone who keeps choosing to do bad things as it puts the onus of effort on the victim. Your abuser is hitting you? You can’t do anything about it because you can’t change them – you can only leave or learn to deal with it. While it might be true, it’s not as empowering as proponents think. All you hear is you have to do this, you have to change, you have to alter who you are and what you do so you don’t offend the offender. You hear you’re not trying hard enough, you’re not saying the right things to get through to them, you’re wrong for pointing out they are wrong but only you are expected to do anything about it.

    It’s remarkably like the mindset that Dems need to change to make the GOP less crazy and it’s their fault conservatives shifted so far right by pointing out they’re acting like a-holes. Or racists telling you calling them racist is even more harmful than their beliefs or actions, you bad bad man. All the fault and blame gets stripped away from their actions and suddenly you’re the bad guy for not reaching them properly. More and more the intransigent parts of society are pushing the notion that they are like this because of the rest of us, not because they’re acting like a-holes. We need to placate them so they might act deign to consider our position of being civilized but god help you if you speak truth to power anymore.

    They’re a-holes, no matter what rationale they are using to be one. If they don’t want to hear it or be judge for it, how about not being an a-hole than? When did that stop being a viable option for society to insist on?

  26. CSK says:

    Very well said.
    I can only add that it’s like telling a rape victim it’s her fault for being young and good-looking.

  27. says:


    “Motivational interviewing is tried and true. My group is using it in two of our current clinical trials. MI is especially helpful for substance use problems”

    Sounds interesting, and hope the trials go well. Lord knows any learning technique other than pain that can help treat active addiction is certainly a societal good. As far as treatment of group reinforced mass delusion, do you see it as a useful tool. I have no background in the mental health field other than the school of hard knocks. I am genuinely curious, and hadn’t heard of the technique until today. I’ll have to read up on it, thanks.

  28. Monala says:

    I read this in Twitter today, written by someone who formerly had TB:

    Do you like living in a country that’s not riddled w/ TB? Including resistant strains? I think you probably do. Because TB sucks & the meds for the resistant kind are even worse than those for the treatable kind. We’re talking liver damage, neurotoxicity, & deafness.
    And, if you like living in such a place, do you know why you get to? Because public health takes infectious people like me and threatens them with jail if they are not surveilled for 6+ months, including checking under your tongue for misplaced pills. Every day they do this.
    That’s why you get to live without TB. That’s why you are not in danger.

    So stop whining about mask & vaccine mandates. You only care b/c you are now *seeing* public health for the first time.

    But public health has been doing this all along. And that’s why *you* are safe.
    And trust me, I was a *compliant* TB patient. I understood the risk I posed to the community. But even I might have messed up the drug regimen or taken a break after a few months if it were not for public health controlling every aspect of my life.


  29. Gustopher says:

    “Let them express their anger, their mistrust, their doubts, and then reflect it back with ‘you statements,’” Resnicow said. “‘You’re worried that the government is trying to force this on people. You don’t trust the public health system. You’re not convinced that the disease is as scary as people say.’ Those ‘you statements’ without judgement, without trying to persuade, send a meta-message that I’m trying to understand you, I’m not gonna judge you and I’m not gonna push you.”

    Hmm, ok, let’s see what my brother sent me this morning…

    Pfizer clinical data:
    44000 people
    22000 vaccinated
    22000 control group
    15 vaccinated died
    14 unvaccinated died
    Out of those deaths, 3 were Covid related.
    Vaccinated had a much higher hospitalization rate.
    Half-life of vaccine effect -63 days
    Completely out of system/no longer effective inside 6 months
    And now we have variants, mutations that are immune to the vaccine.
    “Antibody Dependent Enhancement”
    Rushed to market
    Doesn’t do much beyond the placebo
    Created new variants
    The Left was right when they initially said it was bad…
    But then came the “Party Switch” and Democrats embraced the vaccine, and Republicans rejected it.
    Odd, that last bit.

    You’re a fucking moron.

    Did I do that right?

  30. KM says:

    One of the reason I keep bring up abusers as an example instead of something like trauma victims or substance abuse is the cycle of violence and choice is extremely relevant here. An anti-vaxxer is technically a victim: they’ve been lied to, manipulated and taken advantage of. Someone put them in this position by giving them bad data or reinforced an existing fear or concern with their false narrative. They are the parent who was beaten as a child…. but now they are the adult inflicting abuse on their own kid. They’ve become the abuser themselves and any pity for their circumstances get lost in the fact they’re hurting someone else. They perpetuate the cycle and are now someone else’s bogeyman. Your pain is no excuse or justification to cause others pain.

    I understand trying to be compassionate to them, to try and reach out to save them. They’re people too. However, my concern is and should be with the victims who have not pushed harm onto others first and not someone who’s hurting others. In an ideal world, we’d have enough f*cks to give for everyone – this is not that world. They made the choice to become the abuser and if they don’t want to hear it, tough luck. Breaking out of the cycle is a choice and one they failed to make, even with multiple outreach efforts. We’re too worried about hurting their feelings or rationalizing their behavior then saving future victims and that says a lot about our culture’s priorities.

  31. CSK says:

    That was an excellent distinction you made.

  32. CSK says:

    Headline at CCN just now:

    “Less than 1% of fully vaccinated have breakthrough infections.”

  33. Modulo Myself says:


    Yeah, there’s a huge component here of the abuser being reasonable and empathetic and at the center of everything and never to be rejected. And nobody
    can really say this in public, but Republicans are the stereotypical people who believe that mom kept on running into doors rather than being hit by dad. There’s very little self-awareness or insight going on. And I suspect that many people who are anti-vax and who are ‘reasonable’ are reasonably afraid of why they’re anti-vax and if there’s something wrong with them rather than corporations or the world. Watch daytime tv for middle America and the world of Dr Phil is closer to reality than a bunch of novels about upper-middle class angst or micro-aggressions suffered at Harvard.

  34. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Lounsbury: @MarkedMan: I agree with you both regarding public health in general but I would ask this question. If the Biden administration announced that all the citizens who want them have received their vaccinations and the surplus doses will be donated to Covax what would the reaction be of the unvaccinated?

  35. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: my response would be to ask for a link to the Pfizer clinical data. Not reporting, a tweet, or a blog post, but a link to the study.

  36. CSK says:

    As best I can sum it up, here’s the position if the Trump anti-vaxxer toddlers:
    1. Covid is a hoax.
    2. Even though Covid is a hoax, Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine will cure it. These drugs are cheap and very effective, which is why Big Pharma wants to rob you by charging large sums for the vaccine.
    3. The vaccines kill, and in any case they’re not really vaccines, they’re substances to modify your DNA. Or implant microchips. Or sterilize young women. Or kill our children.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. But that’s what they think, if it can be called thinking.

  37. drj says:


    JFC. I do feel bad for you.

  38. MarkedMan says:

    @Mr. Prosser: No idea. I’m not sure where you are going with this?

  39. Mr. Prosser says:

    @MarkedMan: How many unvaccinated know they can get the vaccine at any time before they are infected just as an addict knows first responders have Narcan. If those options are harder to obtain is there a change in attitude, does posturing have a higher cost?

  40. Jon says:

    @Mr. Prosser: Narcan works for somebody who has overdosed, in that moment, and you still need to call 911 and get them care; the vaccine does not cure COVID if you already have it. Big difference. Once you have COVID and are in dire enough straights you’re in the hospital there is nothing the vaccine can do for you.

  41. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Let’s accept that MI will work, how does it get implemented to influence the behavior of 40% of the populous.

    That. How many trained professional man-hours are required for a successful MI intervention? How many such trained professionals do we have? Somehow I don’t think the arithmetic works.

    It looks like Biden and others are organizing outreach to hesitant poor and minority groups. We know how to do that and there are local, volunteer organizations eager to pitch in. The ideological anti-vax are a different story. Many of the leaders and churches that could lead outreach are preaching anti-vax. Your toddler almost certainly did get all the required vaccinations. How? If all else failed you held them down while someone did it.

  42. Mr. Prosser says:

    @MarkedMan: I was thinking about the posturing of those who know in the back of their mind the vaccine is easily available and if things get really serious it can be taken any time prior to infection.

  43. KM says:

    But that’s logical thinking being applied to a distinctly unlogical concept. We’ve seen firsthand reports of dying COVID patients asking for the vaccine because they think it can save them.

    What I think @Mr. Prosser meant was most people have a somewhat magical thinking relationship with medicine. The idea that a last-minute treatment or cure exists and will help stave off death right up till the end is startlingly prevalent. I can tell you from experience there’s plenty of cancer patients who pushed off chemo or surgery, demanding it far too late and not accepting they missed their treatment window. Do not overestimate people’s medical knowledge or what they think something does. Humans aren’t rational and most aren’t that bright so yes, some might think the vax *is* the cure or good enough for government work.

    The mere fact that Narcan exists enables some people to feel like ODing isn’t as bad as it should be because they can be “saved” and go right back to doing it again. There’s a “safety net” they overestimate and think catches more than it does. The COVID vaccine might perversely have this same effect with idiots going out being risky and thinking they can just get vaxxed in the hospital to mitigate or stop the damage. If there’s no more “safety”, how many will sober up and realize that rolling a 2-8% crit failure rate isn’t as rare as you’d think?

  44. gVOR08 says:

    Yesterday, I was chastised for referring to eligible adults who refuse to get the COVID vaccine as “sociopaths,” in that the group is diverse and have myriad reasons.

    An issue that comes up often at OTB. Are these OPs and threads a group of friends and acquaintances trying to talk something through and understand it better? Or is this somehow political messaging? I’d never call an unvaxxed person a sociopath to their face. And my unvaxxed sister-in-law isn’t, more of a ditz. But in these threads, let’s call a sociopath a sociopath. And we have told the sister-in-law she can’t visit us until she gets the shot.

  45. Modulo Myself says:


    People who OD are given Narcan because it’s possible to kick heroin, and the only damage you are doing is to yourself. You can’t spread your addiction. So it’s not a very good comparison.

    Also, I’ve known addicts, and the existence of Narcan is not a huge incentive to shoot up. IIRC, a bunch of cities had laws that made one accessory to manslaughter if you were present during an OD, and that didn’t stop people from shooting up. People use heroin (and opiates) because they’re addicted, and the seek stronger highs because they develop a tolerance.

  46. Just nutha says:

    @Mr. Prosser: Good suggestion. Beyond encouraging hesitants, it’s better than losing the vax opportunity to expiration.

  47. Mimai says:

    MI is not the sole purview of professionals. Just like talking to one’s partner in a relationship promoting way is not the sole purview of couples therapists. Similarly for parents, children, and pediatricians / child therapists.

    MI is not complicated, but it is different. And it can be (and is) used by all types of (lay)people in all types of types of contexts. One might even consider it a selfish approach in that it makes for far less frustrating interactions…..though I acknowledge that frustration, disdain, etc. can also be satisfying in a way (h/t to Steve for their comment on venting).

    gVOR08 commented about Biden’s outreach programs to hesitant poor and minority groups. Thank you for acknowledging that there are subgroups among the hesitant/resistant. They are not all culties, reality deniers, sociopaths, etc…..although culties, reality deniers, and sociopaths also populate the poor and minority groups too. And guess what, these Biden outreach programs are using MI as a bedrock!

    Now, what to do about the “sociopaths”? Let them all die? Wish for it? I get the sentiment. I contend that this subgroup should not be the focus. Other subgroups are more reachable.

    Also, I contend that these “sociopaths” are not all lost. Some are indeed reachable. Don’t believe me? Might I suggest you acquaint yourself with the work of Daryl Davis and the experience of Megan Phelps-Roper. See also the stories of former and current imprisoned folks – some of the “worst of the worst” and chronically so – who changed for the better and not through disdain.

    Finally, I don’t see the “abuser-victim” framing as being particularly relevant here. As far as I can tell, no one around here is blaming the victim – ie, I don’t see anyone saying that we (the vaccinated and prosocial ones) are to blame for the behavior of them (the unvaccinated and sociopathic ones). Rather, people (myself included) are saying that (1) this is a public health problem that has major externalities, (2) there are varied reasons why people are vaccine hesitant/resistant, (3) lumping them all into a single “sociopath” category is not accurate, and (4) this lumping and name calling is not effective in achieving our ends (more vaccinations).

    That is very different than saying we are to blame for them. I realize this sucks and it’s not fair. Unfortunately, the option of sitting this one out and letting them suffer the consequences is not viable……we too suffer the consequences.

    It’s not about being nice or excusing bad behavior. If the science showed that name-calling and disdain worked to change minds on this, I’d sure as hell be advocating (and modeling) name-calling and disdain. And I’d freakin’ love it! But alas the science doesn’t care about my preferences or natural talents.

  48. KM says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Also, I’ve known addicts, and the existence of Narcan is not a huge incentive to shoot up.

    Wrong framing – it’s not offering an incentive to continue, it’s perceived as potentially mitigating a discouragement. I too know addicts professionally and have heard this several times – they’ll shoot up anyways but having been revived, they’re not as concerned an OD will be fatal if Narcan is in play.

    I never said it was logical or a decent analogy, merely this is what I’ve heard and observed. It doesn’t have to make sense to us, rather to them. Considering these are people who have a whole host of weird COVID beliefs, there are likely people out there who do think the vaccine works like Narcan. These are the ones begging ER nurses to be vaxxed at the end so taking away free vaccines might remove that last-minute save in their minds.

  49. Sleeping Dog says:


    What Biden is proposing is simple community outreach. That we can do on a fairly large scale and it doesn’t take much training to do it. But it will only reach those who are procrastinators and those whose reasons are easily countered and they roll over. The key will be having the vaccine and we really need a one shot vax available immediately as those folks won’t follow up. The resister who have elaborate political religious reasons for vax avoidance are beyond hope. Till they have a come to Jesus moment.

  50. Andy says:

    I think it’s important to recognize that the vaccine-hesitant are a diverse group, contrary to some who claim it’s all racist white Trumpers who want to own the libs.

    Quite obviously, there are going to be some people that can never be convinced. Does that characterize all the vaccine-hesitant? No.

    And I think we all ought to have a little more humility. We are all “toddlers” when it comes to challenges to our status quo set of beliefs. Just look at this commentariat (including me) and count the number of times that people have actually changed their minds on something, or admitted they were wrong. It’s pretty freaking rare. Instead, people tend to double down or throw up strawmen and distractions when their ideas are challenged.

    Expecting everyone to not only know what you think you know, and then act the way you think they should act in response, is -and always has been and will be – an unreasonable expectation that never pans out. Particularly when you frame it in terms of your own self-assured moral and intellectual superiority. While it’s perfectly human for people to act this way, it’s also perfectly human that it doesn’t work at convincing others – People simply don’t think that way.

  51. Scott says:

    As Texas goes through its own delta variant increases, here’s what Texans think about vaccines:

    Over 65% of Texans support vaccine mandates, poll says

    More than 65 percent of Texans said they would support vaccine mandates issued by federal, state or local governments; the national average was 64 percent. More than 70 percent of Texans would support vaccine requirements to board an airplane; more than 62 percent would support vaccine mandates for children returning to schools; and 67 percent would support them for students returning to universities.

    I think we are in the midst of a Revolt of the Vaccinated. Just fed up.

  52. Gustopher says:

    @Teve: You seem to be under the impression that he could be swayed by information. He is claiming that the vaccine is just a placebo, and that having a “leaky” vaccine is is creating vaccine-resistant variants.

    Placebo-resistant variants, I guess.

  53. Teve says:

    @Gustopher: oh not at all. I quit arguing with dingbats loooong ago. I would ask him to provide that evidence because I’m sure he can’t.

  54. Kathy says:

    Last year, at what we thought was the height of the pandemic (not even close), I read of an exercise dealing with a bio-weapon attack on the US. The premise was a deliberate, widespread release of the smallpox virus (variola), which is contagious after symptoms show up.

    The big problem was found to be the limited speed in making and distributing vaccines, while the virus raged on among the unprotected population. there was no word, as far as I know, about people refusing to be vaccinated.

    I believe smallpox was not as contagious as COVID. The effects, though, were much worse. A really high death rate, and a near-certain likelihood of ending up scarred for life if you survived it.

  55. mattbernius says:

    @Mimai & @Andy:
    I think it is really important to separate out–as polls are starting to do–the vaccine-hesitant (see, e.g., MR’s potential son in law) versus vaccine-resistant (see, e.g. JKB).

    The first group can be reached via messaging (especially on-the-ground work) and the other group is essentially unreachable (short of a loved one contracting a serious case of C-19 and even then it’s not a given).

    The challenge with messaging is that honestly, beyond a 1:1 approach, there really isn’t a silver bullet answer because the reasons for hesitancy varies from community to community (though many go back to different forms of marginalization).

  56. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: so if I understand you correctly, you’re saying we need to shoot JKB with a silver bullet.

    It’s outside-the-box, I’ll give you that.

  57. Mimai says:


    Yes, hesitant vs. resistant is very important. And even within these two groups, there are various motivations at play. Even people in the resistant group are potentially reachable. Not all of them, but not none of them either.

    I agree that there isn’t a silver bullet answer. I’ve emphasized this all along. It’s about planting seeds. A lot of the time, they won’t bear fruit. Some of the time they will….which can spread within and across networks (see, eg, the proliferation of network analyses in the social and health sciences).

    We are still figuring out good prediction models for what seeds bear fruit in which gardens. What we do know for sure is that carpet bombing the terrain with roundup prevents fruit development and can poison the groundwater.

    At this point, I think I should back away from this discussion. I’ve expressed my perspective as clearly as I know how. I have erred in the past by doubling, tripling, etc down on making my point (apologies and h/t to CSK), and I’m trying to do better.

  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Oh nooooooes!!!!! Lindsey Graham has changed sides!Or was a hypocritical turncoat all along. Pick one. I don’t care which. 😀

  59. Jax says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Like I said, all the true sociopaths are already vaccinated.

    And by that I mean the Republicans who were formerly known as anti-vaxxers.

  60. wr says:

    @Andy: Three thoughts from one message, presented without commentary:

    “I think it’s important to recognize that the vaccine-hesitant are a diverse group, contrary to some who claim it’s all racist white Trumpers who want to own the libs.”

    “Quite obviously, there are going to be some people that can never be convinced. Does that characterize all the vaccine-hesitant? No.”

    ” people tend to double down or throw up strawmen and distractions when their ideas are challenged”