How can I talk about the COVID-19 vaccines with individuals who have serious mental illness?

The rollout of vaccines for COVID-19 presents an opportunity to protect the health of individuals who have serious mental illness (SMI). There are many calls to action to prioritize this population and get them vaccinated.

Individuals who have SMI may have concerns, questions, or fears about the COVID-19 vaccines. They may feel hesitant about vaccines and even think the vaccine itself can cause the illness.

Mental health clinicians play a critical role in helping people understand and navigate health-related decisions. Much like other health-related questions, screens, or topics, you can use a shared decision-making approach to guide the talk. Especially with this population, it is important to present and discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives. This helps individuals make informed decisions with evidence-based information.

You can use this guide from SMI Adviser to find simple tips for mental health clinicians on how to talk about the COVID-19 vaccines with individuals who have SMI. It includes practical, effective, motivational interviewing approaches to guide the discussion.



  • Nemani K, Li C, Olfson M, et al. Association of Psychiatric Disorders With Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online January 27, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4442
  • Druss BG. Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic in Populations With Serious Mental Illness. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(9):891–892. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.0894
  • Hamada K., Fan X. The impact of COVID-19 on individuals living with serious mental illness. Schizophr. Res. 2020.
  • Warren N, Kisely S, Siskind D. Maximizing the Uptake of a COVID-19 Vaccine in People With Severe Mental Illness: A Public Health Priority. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 15, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4396
  • Was this Helpful ?
  • YesNo

Join our #MissionForBetter now

Sign up for our newsletter. We’ll let you know about new resources, education, and more.