COVID-19 Vaccine Communications
Strategies and Principles to Guide Home Care and Hospice Providers
DEVELOP THE BROAD VISION AND GOALS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
- Establishing guiding principles can help establish the overall tone and approach of the communication strategy.
- Many health care organizations are developing plans that focus on educating and serving as a trusted source for accurate information instead of pushing the vaccine.
There is a crisis of consumers not trusting they will be safe.
- Success will require action, not just communication.
- Nuance is required to deliver both broad and more targeted story threads.
- Routine vaccines are at risk.
THE RIGHT APPROACH
- Be educational, not coercive.
- Open minds and overcome skepticism.
- Provide the facts from health care experts.
- Foster consistency and transparency about the vaccine, vaccination rates and the pandemic.
- Help leaders lead their teams.
What do we need the communications to solve?
- Answer questions, build trust and provide clarity by providing timely, transparent and science-based information.
- Meet people where they are in terms of their perspectives about the vaccine. Be empathetic, not transactional or coercive.
- Motivate and inspire people to come together collectively to fight this pandemic. Reinforce the need for continuing preventative measures, testing and seeking out appropriate care when needed.
- Help people understand what is next through clear and consistent updates about the vaccine, distribution plans and the pandemic.
- Help internal leaders reinforce all key messages with their teams.
- Educate medical staff to have conversations with their patients.
IDENTIFY THE AUDIENCES
- Key audiences include internal and external audiences as well as targeted and general audiences.
- Three audience categories should be considered:
– Internal: team members and medical staff
– Consumers: all consumers and targeted consumer groups
– Community: community leaders, partnering organizations, employers, schools and others
- Specific audiences can receive targeted messaging:
– Hospital employees, front-line caregivers, patients and family members
– Communities of color
– Communities with non-English-speaking individuals
- Audiences can also be segmented based on mindset:
– Ready and willing
– Neutral and information seeking
– Skeptical, but open-minded
– Skeptical, not open-minded
CREATE A MESSAGING FRAMEWORK
- Messaging framework will vary depending on communications goals, audiences and resources. There is no one way to do this.
- The frameworks should be flexible to allow for pivoting as new vaccine developments and distribution plans emerge.
DEVELOP EFFECTIVE MESSAGING
- Transparency is crucial — what we know about the vaccine as well as what we do not know.
- Empathy and understanding are critical when crafting vaccine-related outreach. The circumstances around development and distribution of the vaccine mean it is as much an emotional journey as an objective, cerebral one.
- Polls — both internal and external — can be used to gauge interest in vaccinations as well as concerns and help with the crafting of appropriate audience messages. Fact-based and educational information can help combat the anti-vaccine content and general skepticism.
DETERMINE THE BEST WAYS TO REACH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCES
- A multi-channel approach is important, especially when the public starts to receive vaccinations.
- Social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube), videos and podcasts are effective ways to distribute vaccination information widely and quickly, both internally and externally.
- Live sessions and community town hall events can connect leadership, clinicians and experts to a wide audience.
- Microsites are a useful medium for providing up-to-the-minute information.
- Other lower-tech communications channels can also be good ways to reach audiences (e.g., walking rounds and face-to-face talks with staff, printed materials).
- Internal and external messengers and influencers are essential in delivering vaccine information.
TRACK SUCCESS METRICS
- Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) will indicate which strategies are effective, how a communications plan might pivot, and what future communications and outreach activities should be priorities.
- KPIs can include the following:
– Vaccination rates among team members, health care providers/medical staff, independent medical staff, patients/community members and community influencers
– Employee participation in and engagement with education efforts
– Engagement metrics (e.g., page views) − Glint and other employee surveys
– Brand tracker measurement
FURTHER COVID-19 VACCINE COMMUNICATIONS IDEAS
Here are three ways to discuss COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace now, before the vaccines are more widely distributed to the public in 2021.
- Educate your workforce on the COVID-19 vaccines. The amount of conflicting information on COVID-19 vaccines is staggering. Take the time to send out vetted facts to employees from the FDA and official sources. Encourage employees to speak to physicians about concerns.
- Recognize exceptions to mandatory vaccines. Even if you are considering a requirement that employees be vaccinated, it is important to remember that many individuals may not be subject to a mandatory vaccine policy. For example, persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act may be exempt from vaccination requirements. Therefore, it is important for companies to engage in the interactive process early to determine whether reasonable accommodations are necessary. And some employees may be exempt for religious purposes.
- Executives should start discussing the ramifications of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines. Employees want to know now if the COVID-19 vaccine will be mandatory, but before the company issues a policy, several considerations exist, such as:
- Will the company pay for the vaccine?
- If employees refuse to take the vaccine, will they be fired?
- Will employees refusing to take the vaccine be allowed to work at home while others are required to come to work?
- If employees have reactions or side effects, will the company compensate them for time off to recover?
Right now, employees and companies are hyper-focused on how to resume their prior activities. With a little planning and communication before the vaccines are widely distributed, companies can help ease the transition back to work.
But to some people, the rapid development of those vaccines is troubling.
At the Medical University of South Carolina, where Kuppalli is helping coordinate the vaccine rollout, an employee asked her after a recent town hall: “If these things are so great, why were we able to do this in seven months?”
In response, Kuppalli pointed to the three decades of research on mRNA as a potential medical tool, including human clinical trials on other vaccine candidates based on that technology, in part backed by years of investment from the federal government. “This is a very intricate, difficult process they’ve finally been able to figure out,” she explained.
A Nature survey of more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists found that nearly 90% “think that the coronavirus will become endemic — meaning that it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population for years to come.”
“But failure to eradicate the virus does not mean that death, illness or social isolation will continue on the scales seen so far. The future will depend heavily on the type of immunity people acquire through infection or vaccination and how the virus evolves.”
NAHC Coronavirus Resources
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION:
- COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit
- COVID-19 Vaccination Information for You and Your Family
- COVID-19 Vaccination Information for Healthcare Professionals