This week’s review focuses on the strategies, channels, and messengers to use for effective COVID-19 prevention messages.
This study found that the channel from which people get their information about COVID-19 and vaccinations likely influences their level of vaccine hesitancy. People who received information from traditional news sources were more likely to accept the vaccine than those who received information only from social media sites. The researchers argue that the traditional media channels should continue to promote data-driven and informed content to their viewers, and that social media channels should be used to educate vaccine hesitant individuals with more accurate information to counter the misinformation they are receiving that may lead to their hesitancy.
The authors of this perspective highlight the importance of physicians to use careful communication when attempting to persuade people, both interpersonally and via social media, to be vaccinated. The authors argue that health care professionals have an obligation to provide accurate information to, and advocate for, both their individual patients and the public at large. Therefore, it is important to educate people about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the best way to do that, they argue, is through social media. They suggest providers post about their own vaccination experiences, invite people online for discussion through live video chats, create digital advocacy groups, and use public pages that differ from their personal accounts.
Another pair of researchers also argue that health care providers must address vaccine hesitancy by communicating directly with their patients. In this article, they note that scare tactics or even just simple facts are not likely to persuade people who are resistant to the vaccine. Instead, they argue that trusted health care workers should disseminate information through motivational interviewing. This way, health care providers support patients’ autonomy to reduce defensiveness, use a guiding style to elicit ambivalence and provide information, address personal agency to ensure understanding of risk reduction, and evoke patients’ own arguments for vaccination. This is more likely to reduce vaccine hesitancy.
Not only do health care providers have a duty to inform the public about COVID-19 preventive behaviors but so too do government officials. In this study, the researchers found that among Medicare beneficiaries, those who relied on guidance from government officials for information were more likely to engage in preventive behaviors than those who relied on information from traditional news sources or friends and family members. They suggest government officials use targeted communication to at-risk groups and use ongoing COVID-19 messaging on mitigation strategies and vaccination as an effective public health promotional outreach strategy.
Targeting at-risk groups was also supported by this study that found mothers with post-traumatic stress disorder were less likely to get the vaccine for themselves or their children primarily because of institutional distrust and less belief in science. Using a trauma-informed approach that takes into consideration the content, delivery, and mode of vaccine messaging may be an important strategy for this group. Another at-risk group that needs targeted messaging is women leaving jails. This study found that vaccine refusal was as high as 50% among this population, and most women have low SES, health literacy, and mistrust of government institutions. Therefore, interventions to promote vaccines in this population will have to address this mistrust as well as the misinformation and conspiracy theories they likely believe.