Watch the AMA's daily COVID-19 update, with insights from AMA leaders and experts about the pandemic.
In today’s COVID-19 update, a national grassroots campaign based in California, “#ThisIsOurShot," aims to elevate the voices of physicians and other health care workers in an effort to get people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Learn more at the AMA COVID-19 resource center.
- Alex McDonald, MD, FAAFP, co-founder, #ThisIsOurShot campaign
- Anna Yap, MD, design lead, #ThisIsOurShot campaign
- Reilly Bealer, Government Relations Advocacy Fellow, AMA
Unger: Hello, this is the American Medical Association's COVID-19 update. Today, we're going to learn about a national grassroots campaign called This Is Our Shot, which aims to elevate the voices of physicians and other health care workers in an effort to get people vaccinated. I'm joined today by Dr. Alex McDonald, co-founder of the hashtag #thisisourshotcampaign and a Southern California Permanente Medical Group physician specializing in family medicine and sports medicine in Fontana, California; Dr. Anna Yap, This Is Our Shot design lead and an emergency medicine resident in Los Angeles, California; and Reilly Bealer, the AMA's Government Relations Advocacy Fellow, or GRAF, in Washington, D.C., and a rising third year medical student at the Elson Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University.
I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago. Dr. McDonald, let's start with you. Can you begin by telling us what This Is Our Shot is, and how the idea came about?
Dr. McDonald: Absolutely. Our job is to elevate the voice of health care heroes to really build vaccine trust for basically a COVID-free world. This started from basically a friend of mine and I had a conversation and realized that Kaiser Family Foundation data showed that physicians, and not just any physician, but your physician is the most trusted messenger when it comes to COVID vaccine information and messaging, too.
What we really wanted to do is basically empower health care heroes, whether that be doctors or nurses or pharmacists or whoever it is, to reach out to their communities, to their members, to their friends, to their family, and really share accurate and good information about the COVID vaccine, too. Our job is to help train and educate those health care heroes so that then they can go out and talk to their networks as well, too. That's the short version. I can go on and on, but I'll stop there.
Unger: Well, it is really inspiring, and I've gotten to know a lot of physicians, residents and students over the years here at the AMA. I am elated when I see them getting their shots, and it makes me want one even more. Dr. Yap, Ms. Bealer, how did you first hear of the campaign and why did you feel it was so important to get involved?
Dr. Yap: I'm actually friends with Alex and the other co-founder (Dr.) Atul (Nakhasi), and they approached us in California and saying, "Hey, we really want to start this movement of health care heroes." Their energy is so contagious and they've really just pulled us into this movement and it's been just on the ground ever since.
Unger: How are you getting people involved? Is this a thing that's organic, just by seeing it, or what are you doing now to market it?
Dr. Yap: Yeah. The way we do it is, we have weekly meetings on Tuesday evenings that we can pull people into that we'll invite people into. When we have these meetings, we say, "Hey, bring three of your friends. Text them. See if they're interested and help them come along." Also, we have Facebook pages, Twitter pages and all that. We try to generate a buzz and bring them into that little bit.
Unger: Ms. Bealer, how'd you get involved?
Bealer: Yeah. It was the most typical grassroots efforts where you hear word of mouth. Dr. Yap is one of my close friends and AMA colleagues, and I have several other AMA colleagues who were involved and they said, "Hey, we're the ones on the front lines battling COVID-19. We also have to battle it in our own communities when it comes to vaccine hesitancy." I just fell in love with it right there, because grassroots efforts are the most effective, passionate types of advocacy campaigns.
Unger: Yeah. The vaccine hesitancy, a real issue here. Dr. Yap, I'd love it if you could comment on a recent article about the campaign that said that the single greatest barrier now facing us is vaccine trust, especially among communities of color, younger individuals and lower socioeconomic populations. It's surprising to see younger people on this list. What is driving the hesitancy there?
Dr. Yap: It's so multifactorial, right? If we had the single right answer, we'd be able to fix it right away, but the truth of the matter is we don't. There's a lot of historicity to this with communities of color that unfortunately have dealt with racism in medicine and the other things, that have lost their trust, understandably. That's why we as health care providers have to reach out, have to put out that olive branch. That's what our group is working to do.
Unger: Ms. Bealer, what are you seeing or hearing among medical students? Has there been any hesitancy to get the vaccine? I know it's hard to generalize across that many people, but why is it so important that medical students get involved in efforts like this?
Bealer: Yeah, no, it's actually quite the opposite. We're seeing medical students wanting to get vaccinated. Our third and fourth years have. A majority have been vaccinated. They're the ones that are in clinic, but we also see our second and first years who are in their preclinical educational years, wanting to be vaccinated, wanting to protect their community in every way that they can through protecting themselves, which in turn provides immunity for themselves and protects their families, their friends, those that are around them.
Unger: I imagine it's going to be an important part of getting back to normal, and their education and training, is that part of the motivation?
Bealer: Definitely, and like Dr. McDonald said, 85% of patients said they trust their own physicians to disseminate information regarding COVID-19, versus 58% of others who trust officials, government officials and things like that. Medical students know that they are the future physicians and want to be part of that communication platform.
Dr. McDonald: I think the medical students are so key and when Dr. Nakhasi and I launched this effort, we thought about, how can we really engage these medical students who maybe have a little bit more free time, not much more, a little bit more free time, and are also very, very digitally savvy and social media savvy? Right? This is primarily a digital effort, right? This is primarily through social media, and so really harnessing the power and the knowledge and the experience of our medical students, in our future physicians, is so key. We partner with the American Medical Student Association as well, because that's such a valuable key ingredient to this grassroots effort.
Unger: Dr. McDonald, when you see other health care workers being hesitant about the vaccine, how do you react to that and what do you do about it?
Dr. McDonald: I think it's all about conversation and it's all about trust. One of my nurses actually was very hesitant about getting the COVID vaccine until I got mine. Every day, she popped her head into my office and say, "Hey, how are you doing today? How are you feeling after your COVID vaccine yesterday, two days ago, last week?" It's all about those individual relationships. Probably about a week after I got my second dose, she popped her head in and said, "Dr. McDonald, I got my first dose." It's all about addressing individuals where they are, asking, reaching out to them. As Dr. Yap said, it's really so multifactorial that we can't use a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to basically ask questions and see what's driving patients' individual hesitancy and address their concerns and the individuals, one at a time.
Unger: Dr. Yap, anything to add to that?
Dr. Yap: I think that a lot of times we, as health care professionals ... there's a group of us who are social media savvy, but I think a lot of us don't realize the power that we have on social media, and all the people who are actually watching you that you don't realize. When I posted #thisisourshot, my vaccine stuff, I actually had people from high school I haven't talked to in ages actually reach out to me and ask me questions about the vaccine and ask me things like, "Are there animals in this vaccine? Is there this? Is there that in the vaccine?" I helped cull their fears and they got their vaccine pretty recently. I'm really excited to see that they went forward with it. Part of our movement is also to help empower and help give our health care professionals the tools they need to be able to reach out to their groups and their communities.
Unger: We know that physicians struggle with how to message the importance of getting the vaccine in a way that will resonate with their patients. Of course, not everybody's the same. There are different reasons, I think that you've mentioned, but a little lightning round here, what's the number one reason that you tell patients or your friends or your family, why they should get vaccinated? Dr. McDonald, you first.
Dr. McDonald: First, I lead by example and I show them myself. I posted on social media. Right? Second of all, I tell them, "Do it for your grandparents. Do it for your kids. Do it for your community. Do it to get back to normal." Hence the name, #thisisourshot. It's for our shot to get back to our normal life, to protect our communities and to protect ourselves.
Unger: Dr. Yap?
Dr. Yap: He couldn't say it better. I just want to get back to normal. I am tired of all this, so let's work together and let's move forward.
Unger: Ms. Bealer?
Bealer: Exactly what Dr. McDonald said. This is our shot. We have a responsibility together as a planet, as a nation, to get this vaccine to fight COVID-19 so we can protect each other.
Unger: Dr. Yap, you mentioned the fact that you're in that contingent of social media savvy physicians. Obviously, social media has been a double-edged sword here. How has it helped you, and how has it hurt you in terms of messaging about the vaccine?
Dr. Yap: It is where the anti-vaxxers do live. Unfortunately, we have had some individuals in our campaign actually be targeted by individuals in that group. A lot of times, there's the problem within social media, you don't necessarily change people's minds if you don't know them and you don't have a personal connection with them. There is that dark side to social media, but I think the bright side is, there is a very large community that you can reach on there that you know throughout your life. Especially in this age of social distancing that we can't see each other, social media is the way that we can reach out to each other. That's where we have seen bright things in social media.
Unger: Dr. McDonald, any thoughts for you about the role of social media?
Dr. McDonald: Absolutely. My wish for this campaign is that every single physician in this nation will raise their voice and start posting good, accurate information on social media and within their networks. Maybe if they're only friends with their grandmother, right? It doesn't matter. It's one at a time. Only collectively together can we really combat not only misinformation, but horrific and dangerous misinformation. We know the anti-vaxxers are extremely well-funded and extremely well-organized, and we really need to reclaim the narrative. We can use this moment in time, let no crisis go to waste, we can use this moment in time to recapture the narrative on vaccinations in general, too. That's my dream, is that every physician can be educated and empowered to speak out and to speak up to provide a counterpoint to this dangerous misinformation.
Unger: Dr. McDonald, both you and Dr. Yap have brought up this idea, being the possibility of being harassed and trolled by anti-vaxxers. Do you have any advice for folks who, that's a real fear for them, to do what you're hoping they do, which is get up and speak out.
Dr. Yap: We actually had a fantastic ... Dr. Baldwin come in at our last meeting to actually talk about being trolled by anti-vaxxers. At each of our weekly meetings, we actually bring experts in to teach us more about various parts of the campaign and how to become better social media advocates. I think the important thing that she brought up was just a lot of times, don't engage with them, if you can. Understand that we do have a larger community that's here to help support you and help to keep you safe, too.
Unger: Dr. McDonald, any thoughts on dealing with trolls and strong harassment and opposition online?
Dr. McDonald: Yeah. There's a couple of different groups that you can go to for help. One is called Cicada. One is called Shots Heard. There are different websites and Facebook groups where individuals can get support and help for this, as well. Part of our mission too, is to help empower and to educate our coalition and our members of this grassroots effort and provide them the training and the tools. I think in a word, don't feed the trolls, right? Just ignore them, block them and don't even pay any attention to them, because all it does is if you activate them and comment on them, all it does is it feeds into their cycle and through the social media algorithms actually raises their posts higher up. People are more likely to see them, as well. Don't feed the trolls.
Unger: Good advice. Do not engage. One of the first and most important lessons of social media. I've got a final question here. Each of you respond, please. What inspired you most since starting or becoming involved in this effort? Dr. Yap, will you start?
Dr. Yap: I think I'm just inspired by all the other health care professionals who have really jumped in on this and taken this mantel up. It's inspiring to see people's posts and the things that drive them to make This Is Our Shot, and to say that this is our way of moving forward.
Unger: Ms. Bealer?
Bealer: I think in this current climate of division, This Is Our Shot has really put in real life experiences, such as, "I got my shot. I had chills the next day, but it's okay. My body is fighting the virus. That's what it's doing." It's not blaming people or getting angry at people for not getting their shot. That's really trying to provide a platform where you can ask questions, where you can get information without feeling bad. I just love that my fellow colleagues are working together to really try to make the community better in a holistic way.
Unger: Dr. McDonald?
Dr. McDonald: Yeah. I would completely agree with my illustrious colleagues here. I think the number one thing that's inspired me the most is just how everyone is so positive. This is really a campaign about being positive and not ignoring the negative, a lot of bad things have happened over this past year, but we're just taking where we are and moving forwards and thinking about the positivity. The energy, the enthusiasm, and everyone just gets it. After when I first talked to people about this movement, they're like, "Yeah, I'm in." It doesn't even take a heavy lift because people are so excited.
Unger: Dr. McDonald, for those out there that would like to get involved, what should they do?
Dr. McDonald: Absolutely. We have a website which is in beta form right now. Hopefully launching soon, if you go to, thisisourshot.us, there's a form right there that you can log in, put your information in there to be added to our email list and our invitation for our weekly meetings, as well. Go online, go to @thisisourshot on Instagram or Twitter. Then we also have a Facebook group for physicians, specifically. You go to search, This Is Our Shot Facebook group, you can actually ask to join to that group, where we do a lot of our internal organization. Then we also have a public Facebook page, as well, too. People can search thisisourshot2021 and join for more public messaging there, too.
Unger: Well, thanks so much Dr. McDonald, Dr. Yap and Ms. Bealer for being here today and talking about This Is Our Shot. I love what you're doing. I'm so inspired by it, and I want to see more pictures of all of you getting those shots. Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back with another segment shortly. In the meantime, please take care.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this video are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.