Vaccine distribution

How to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation through digital communications

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    Riley Leight
  • Mar 24, 2021

Misinformation is one of the greatest threats to successful vaccine distribution. Healthcare providers have a duty to help inform the public about the COVID-19 vaccine, and an opportunity to build lasting trust with patients while doing so.

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COVID-19 vaccine distribution faces many challenges, like increased strain on healthcare workers, sensitive storage needs, and a simple lack of supply—but perhaps the most complex of these challenges is the growing influence of dangerous misinformation.

The internet has made an irrevocable impact on public health. Revolutionary solutions have been deployed to meet the needs of patients across the world, and the pandemic has spurred even further digital transformation in healthcare. Alongside those advancements, however, has come the ability to disseminate health-related misinformation at a vastly increased scale. 

Before COVID-19, anti-science and anti-vaccine movements were already gaining momentum in the U.S., especially on social media platforms. Events like 2020’s measles outbreak in Los Angeles point to a worrying trend: many people have been convinced of the false notion that vaccines pose a major risk to the health of themselves and their families. 

This will inevitably impact the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine—and present a possible barrier to successfully achieving herd immunity against the virus.

As healthcare providers, hospitals, and public health advocates provide accurate resources regarding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, read on for insight on how digital communications can work to combat misinformation.

Show the public you’re invested in their health

Once misinformation has spread, it can create suspicion and broken trust between the public and their healthcare providers. Many marginalized groups also have a troubled history with the healthcare industry, meaning misinformation can widen existing divides.

To reach those already impacted by misinformation, healthcare providers and public health organizations must build back their trust. That can’t be accomplished just by correcting falsehoods, but by building long-term customer and patient relationships through effective engagement.

Healthcare providers and government agencies have already faced similar challenges overcoming fears around contact tracing and its privacy implications. Those efforts show clear, effective, and timely communication are the building blocks of trust. Every public health organization’s communications must address fears with understanding and patience—not just correction. 

One of the best ways to achieve this is through transparency. It’s helpful to explain the limited risks that are present with vaccines—like the possibility of allergic reactions for specific populations—while also expressing the essential benefits vaccination has for our society at large. You can also create transparency by involving the public directly in your safety processes; inventive solutions like V-Safe, deployed by the CDC, make users an active participant in tracking vaccine safety and efficacy.

Make accurate information more accessible

Not everyone has convenient, affordable access to professional medical care or advice, which can put them at high risk of being influenced by misinformation. 

The best strategy is to preempt and prevent misinformation’s spread, rather than simply reacting to it. For healthcare organizations engaging with the public on matters surrounding vaccine distribution, you can equip them with knowledge to help safeguard against misinformation and lessen its total impact. 

If your organization has an appointment confirmation or reminder system, an email solution, or other engagement tools, you can leverage that existing communications infrastructure to help inform users. Consider attaching links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s thorough resources on vaccine safety and efficacy, or summarizing relevant information in a way that’s clear and easy to understand.

Create engagement channels to field questions

One of the most effective ways to build trust and stop vaccine misinformation is through direct, one-to-one communication with experts—but it’s also one of the most logistically difficult to provide.

Educating the public is one of many ways vaccine distribution has increased the pressure on already-overburdened healthcare workers. Your organization can provide tools to help ease this burden and get the public the information they need: through intuitive voice response systems (IVR), messaging, or other engagement channels, you can implement a personalized, self-serve system to address common questions or concerns around the vaccine and provide the most up-to-date information.

And if you do want to connect your users directly to a professional who can help address their concerns, you can offer something as simple as live web chat with a qualified representative, or something as powerful as a fully remote, cloud-based call center that makes users feel supported and heard.

No matter what tools you use to do it, the goal is simple: make resources as accessible as possible to help ensure we all stay healthy, connected, and informed.

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Riley Leight

Riley is a full-time writer based in Annapolis, Maryland.