In line with health outcomes, vaccines have been determined to be the most successful and effective interventions for improvement. It has been used to prevent the death of countless lives in all regions in the world. However, the public’s uncertainty to use vaccines also known as vaccine hesitancy has become a prominent issue in healthcare during the recent years. It was even declared by the WHO as one of the ten threats to global health in 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several factors that give rise to vaccine hesitancy; therefore, there is no single intervention strategy to address it. A root cause analysis is needed for each country and/or population subgroup then an evidence-based strategy is needed to address the root cause.
Considering the current situation as the vaccine for COVID-19 is in its early stages of distribution, it is vital for any thoughts of vaccine hesitancy to be removed. Our role as student pharmacists and/or recent graduates is quintessential to controlling misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the ways this can be done is through effective communication and information dissemination with the public. A document released by the National Institutes of Health has outlined several strategies which can be utilized to tailor messages for the public against vaccine hesitancy against the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes:
- Identify and partner with trusted COVID-19 vaccine messengers
- Create accurate, transparent, and truthful vaccine messages
- Frame vaccine acceptance as a social norm
- Use behavioral nudges
- Enact value-concordant messaging that is sensitive to the emotional state of the audience
- Creative strategies: Going beyond didactic vaccine messages
In addition to this, the WHO Technical Advisory Group on Behavioral Insights and Sciences for Health outlined the factors that drive people to get vaccinated: an enabling environment, social influences, and motivation. Getting vaccinated should be easy, quick, and affordable. Reluctance may be, in reality, a response to the inconvenience of getting vaccinated. Vaccines should be made visible – make it a social norm. And, increase individual motivation by open and transparent dialogue about the risks and uncertainties associated with the vaccine.
These evidence-based communication strategies are essential in ensuring the long-term control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Truly, effective and strategic communication is the key towards preventing vaccine hesitancy in the time of COVID-19.
Chou, W.Y..S., Burgdorf, C., Gaysynsky, A., & Hunter, C. (2020). COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence. National Insititutes of Health.
Chou, W. Y. S., & Budenz, A. (2020). Considering emotion in COVID-19 vaccine communication: Addressing vaccine hesitancy and fostering vaccine confidence. Health communication, 35(14), 1718-1722.
Eskola, J., Duclos, P., Schuster, M., & MacDonald, N. E. (2015). How to deal with vaccine hesitancy?. Vaccine, 33(34), 4215-4217.
World Health Organization. (2020). Ten threats to global health in 2019. https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019
World Health Organization. (2020). Vaccine acceptance is the next hurdle. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/vaccine-acceptance-is-the-next-hurdle