Dr. Duane Mitchell didn’t expect to convince a stranger to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when he went to a restaurant for dinner in Gainesville, Florida over the summer.
Mitchell, the director of the University of Florida’s Clinical Translational Science Institute, sat at the bar of the restaurant 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 her shot.
He “really started rattling off a lot of the things that he had heard, the reasons why he wasn’t planning on taking the vaccine,” Mitchell told USA TODAY.
“I debated him a little bit on some of those issues, not in a confrontational way but just saying ‘let me give you a different point of view’ or ‘here’s some information that we’ve certainly learned since the rollout of the vaccine,’” Mitchell added.
In a video published by UF Health last week, Hall explained he was critical of COVID-19 vaccines for multiple reasons, including seeing conflicting information from news outlets.
But the longer 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 and simplify it and make it make sense,” 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 at, well, if something is bad with the vaccine and she’s vaccinated, unfortunately, maybe it would affect her. But I wouldn’t be affected, so I could still be around for our child,” Hall said.
“And [Mitchell] said ‘well, if you were going on a family vacation, would you all three take separate cars? Because the probability of you dying in a car crash is much greater than a vaccination.’ And I literally laughed. I was like ‘no, I guess that makes great sense.'”
Hall reached out to Mitchell just days later asking to schedule an appointment to get his COVID-19 vaccine. UF Health shared a clip of Mitchell looking on as Hall received his shot.
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“As a medical professional and a researcher, one of our key responsibilities is trying to get information to the public in a way that is meaningful and ideally results in positive change,” Mitchell said.
“This pandemic has been a challenge, obviously for the entire society on many levels, but I think it’s challenged us in the health care and health delivery fields to really think about how the public receives information and how we can communicate that information in a way that’s effective.”
Hall called his conversation with Mitchell “a really genuine 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 comforting. And I trusted him.” Hall said.
Health officials recommend that all people over the age of 12 who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine should receive their shot. As of the week beginning on Oct. 1, over 13.7 million people in Florida have at least received their first dose of a vaccine, according to data from the state.