By Sean Streicher

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Johns Hopkins University has launched a free virtual course to teach people how to talk to parents about the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

When it comes to the vaccination rate, Maryland is faring well. Around 88.2% of the state’s children ages 5 and older have received at least one dose.

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But having a meaningful conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine with other people isn’t always easy.

“I know for a lot of people it’s really difficult to have these conversations,” Dr. Rupali Limaye, a behavioral scientist who studies global vaccine hesitancy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “They get emotional; they get heated.”

A brand new, free online course from Johns Hopkins is looking to change that though.

The online course is called COVID Vaccine Ambassador Training: How to Talk to Parents. The goal of the course is to equip parents, teachers, and members of the community with the skills necessary to have a respectful and empathetic conversation with parents and guardians who remain hesitant about the vaccine.

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“Instead of having a doctor, or a nurse, or another health care professional, we thought about how we can equip parents,” Limaye said. “So, when you have these conversations at the bus stop, which I have almost every day with parents, or you’re doing school sports with other parents, that you’re able to talk about it in this way that is conversational.”

This conversational tone aims to remove the “I know better than you do” vibe from the conversation.

The two-hour course teaches ambassadors a variety of topics like how to effectively communicate with people who are hesitant, how vaccines are developed, how to spot and respond to misinformation online, and the importance of vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11.

“The goal here is to make sure whatever decision they come to, whether it’s getting the vaccine or it’s not getting the vaccine, is based on evidence,” Limaye said.

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This course is free and available to anyone. It is designed to take less than two hours. A person does not need to complete it all at once.

Sean Streicher