With the growing amount of misinformation on social media related to COVID-19 (see, for example, this study of COVID-19 vaccine information on Parler), many platforms have begun censoring content. However, this approach may actually backfire, according to a recent commentary. Instead, the authors argue that public health communicators need to use social media more frequently to engage with vaccine hesitant individuals. This way they can answer questions and correct any inaccuracies, instead of having users flock to other platforms that allow the spread of false information. This communication needs to be conducted in a professional manner that does not promote discord with those who disagree with their stance or stigmatize those who have legitimate questions. Providing evidence-based information from well-trusted messengers is key to reducing vaccine hesitancy.
In this systematic review of clinical trials, researchers determined that the provision of online information, communication-based interventions, and health care training can also reduce vaccine hesitancy. Tailoring education strategies and using dialogue-based approaches are more likely to be effective at reducing vaccine hesitancy.
Vaccine hesitancy is on a continuum; therefore, all types of individuals need to be reached including those who are cautious, uninformed, or actively resistant, to increase the number of people who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Creating messages that meet people where they are is key to helping them understand the importance and urgency of vaccination. In this review, the authors rely on behavioral science and social marketing to provide strategies to overcome vaccine hesitancy. They outline theory-based strategies to develop a marketing brand and strategy for reaching people to compete within the marketplace of ideas and behaviors. Ultimately, they argue that to change behavior, the overall campaign strategy should include rewards or incentives.