Dr Duane Mitchell didn’t expect to convince a stranger to get the COVID-19 vaccine when he went to a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida for dinner over the summer.
Mitchell, the director of the Clinical Translational Science Institute at the University of Florida, was sitting at the restaurant bar next to a man named Mark Hall. The men started talking and eventually discussed the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines.
Hall said he was opposed to the vaccine, although his wife had received his vaccine.
He “really started to tell a lot of the things he had heard, the reasons why he wasn’t planning on taking the vaccine,” Mitchell told USA TODAY.
“I debated it a bit on some of these issues, not in a confrontational manner but just saying ‘let me give you a different point of view’ or ‘here is some information that we have certainly learned since the vaccine rolled out, ‘”added Mitchell.
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In a video released by UF Health last week, Hall explained that he was critical of COVID-19 vaccines for multiple reasons, including seeing conflicting information from news outlets.
But the more he spoke with Mitchell, the more he began to change his mind. The men stayed at the restaurant and talked about the vaccine for over three hours.
“He would just clarify it, simplify it and make sense of it,” Hall told USA TODAY.
Hall, a general contractor, said he was concerned that if there was a problem with the vaccine he and his wife might not be able to care for their child.
“I was looking, well, if something’s wrong with the vaccine and she gets vaccinated, unfortunately it might affect her. But I wouldn’t be affected, so I could still be there for our child, ”Hall said.
“And [Mitchell] said ‘well, if you were going on a family vacation, would the three of you take separate cars? Because the probability of dying in a car accident is much greater than a vaccination. And I literally laughed. I was like ‘no, I guess that makes a lot of sense.’ ”
Hall contacted Mitchell a few days later to ask him to make an appointment to be vaccinated against COVID-19. UF Health shared a clip of Mitchell watching Hall receive his shot.
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“As a healthcare professional and researcher, one of our primary responsibilities is to try to provide information to the public in a way that is meaningful and ideally leading to positive change,” Mitchell said.
“This pandemic has been a challenge, obviously for the whole of society on many levels, but I think it has challenged us in the areas of health care and health care delivery to really think about the how the public receives information and how we can communicate that information in a way that is effective.
Hall called his conversation with Mitchell a “really real back-and-forth.”
“It’s kind of like talking to your friend after a while. I felt like I knew him. I asked personal questions, and it was heartwarming. And I trusted him.” Hall said.
Health officials recommend that all people over 12 who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receive their vaccine. In the week starting Oct. 1, more than 13.7 million people in Florida received at least their first dose of a vaccine, state data showed.