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Experts Address COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

by Nicole Hackett, Student Public Relations Writer

Dr. Justin ColeAccording to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40% of Americans are likely not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This tendency, labeled vaccine hesitancy, will be the subject of a podcast by Cedarville University’s Center for Pharmacy Innovation (CPI).

Featured on the DISRxUPT podcast will be Dr. Justin Cole, CPI director and associate professor of pharmacy practice. He also serves as chair of the department of pharmacy practice. Dr. Aleda Chen, interim dean of Cedarville’s School of Pharmacy and associate professor of pharmacy practice will also join the podcast. A live recording of the DISRxUPT podcast episode will air on March 10 at 6 p.m. Join the live recording at

Cole and Chen’s podcast on vaccine hesitancy will be available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Castro, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, Cast Box and TuneIn.

Dr. Aleda ChenAccording to Cole, vaccine hesitancy is any delay in the acceptance or refusal of vaccines even when the vaccines are available. The World Health Organization considers vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

“If we want to achieve herd immunity, even when factoring in those who have natural immunity from contracting COVID-19, high percentages of vaccination will be needed in a timely manner,” explained Cole.

Cole and Chen believe that patient-centered communication practices, such as motivational interviewing to engage people who express vaccine hesitancy, will help this ever-growing problem.

“This communication approach utilizes active listening and empathy to help a person process their own health beliefs regarding vaccines and explores their own motivation regarding choices related to vaccines,” said Cole. “It can also provide an opportunity to share new information or explain misconceptions about vaccines.”

They also believe that this technique will help reach minority communities who have a deep-rooted distrust toward the medical community and are the most likely to have vaccine hesitancy.

“There is a lot of distrust related to healthcare providers in minority communities given the history of unethical research and trials of many drugs and vaccines in vulnerable populations,” explained Chen. “A lot of our research efforts focus on trying to change the approach to engaging people and building trust. Rather than simply telling patients what to do, we seek to understand their perspective and what is causing hesitancy. Then, we can share information honestly and start building equitable relationships.”

Cole and Chen recently examined the impact of MOTIVE, a motivational interviewing-based tool they created, on childhood immunization rates. They found that vaccination refusals went down when using MOTIVE, including refusals for the influenza vaccine.

“The clinic site we worked with asked us to create a similar tool to MOTIVE to address hesitancy related to the COVID-19 vaccines,” said Cole. “We continue to expand this work to other vaccines and practice settings, including community pharmacies, which are being relied upon to distribute the vaccine to the public.”

Cole and Chen are currently pursuing additional funding to continue their work in motivational interviewing.

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including its Doctor of Pharmacy program, strong graduation, and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit

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