The foci of communication about COVID-19 and its vaccine from different areas and groups has been diverse, with some communication leading to positive outcomes and others leading to less desirable outcomes.
In this analysis of the World Health Organization’s communication efforts, researchers determined that slightly more than half of their communication during the first three months of 2020 was related to COVID-19. However, more than half of those communications were not issued until March. Their overcautious approach towards solidarity and cooperation likely lead to greater devastation than providing early risk messages with clear warning earlier in the pandemic, according to the authors.
In this geolocation content analysis of more than 78 million COVID-19 vaccine-related tweets, researchers determined great diversity in what was being communicated. Here is a breakdown of what different geographic areas focused on:
- Urban suburbs discussed equitable distribution
- College towns focused on vaccination sites near universities
- Evangelical hubs mentioned operation warp speed and thanking God
- Exurbs posted about the 2020 election
- Hispanic centers shared concerns around food and water
- African American southern counties posted about issues of trust, hesitancy, and history
- Graying America communities discussed the federal government’s failures
- Rural middle America posted about news press conferences
Knowing what diverse communities focus on can help health communicators disseminate targeted messaging and mitigation strategies.
As noted in the previous study, Black communities focus a lot on mistrust, hesitancy, and historical discrimination. In this nationally representative panel survey, 35% of Black Americans shared that they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine and another 25% reported that they did not know if they would. The primary reason was mistrust. Participants were concerned about harm and negative side effects of the vaccine. Additionally, believing that few people in one’s social network were receiving the vaccine also influenced the likelihood of getting the vaccine. The authors suggest that public health communicators use clear and transparent messages about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine to persuade Black Americans to be vaccinated, and to encourage individuals to share when they do get vaccinated so that others in their social network will recognize the normative behavior. The researchers also note the importance of acknowledging historical and current discrimination and racism in medicine and public health. One group that is trying to address these concerns is the Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in STEM. In this informational YouTube video, the leaders of the COVID-19 action group engaged in a discussion and answered questions from the Black community about the COVID-19 vaccine. They focused on misconceptions, misinformation, mistrust, hesitancy, challenges in prioritizing the vaccine, racism, education, and practical strategies for improving vaccine acceptance. A summary of this video is available in this manuscript.
To address vaccine hesitancy and mistrust with the vaccine regulatory process, not only among Black Americans but also skeptical Americans, researchers recommend broad action in this forum to address these issues and misinformation still circulating about COVID-19. They specifically call on the Food and Drug Administration to improve its communication and to offer more consistent messages. They suggest that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should return to an independent science-driven institution. And they argue that all public health entities need to be more aggressive in countering misinformation, especially on social media.