Too Much of a Good Thing? Addressing Misinformation in Vaccine Enthusiasm
The final push toward a COVID vaccine finish line continues to focus on addressing the concerns and misgivings that a variety of audiences have toward any vaccine, let alone one that has been so widely politicized. But while communicators may see vaccine hesitancy as an immediate issue in their messaging strategies, the flip side could create future problems if left unchecked: vaccine enthusiasm.
Vaccine enthusiasm would seem a welcome problem for many agencies. But unintended side effects like long lines, unclear policies for access, and even misinformation around the positive news related to vaccines are beginning to surface. Overly enthusiastic approaches to the vaccine can be just as troublesome as the hesitancy surrounding them.
Misinformation on both ends of the spectrum
Public health experts continue working to make sure that those most impacted by COVID-19 are ready and willing to receive the vaccine. What they face, however, are technological, socioeconomic, and historical inequities that all combine into vaccine hesitancy. Addressing these issues requires important conversations and specific strategies that will help overcome these barriers both now and in the future.
At the same time, though, a population eager for the vaccine can create its own hotbed for information that, if not misinformation, can mislead by being incomplete or inaccurate. Media coverage of frequently changing guidelines regarding COVID shows that something done with the right intentions can lead to confusion.
The recent CDC announcement of new guidelines regarding masks and fully-vaccinated people was embraced by the media in a way that didn’t always reflect nuanced details. Headlines, such as this one from ABC News, announced that “fully vaccinated people can gather without masks” but left important details for the sub-headline. And even then, critical facts such as that gatherings can only be with other individuals who are at low risk only appeared in the body of the story.
After the last year, it’s hard to blame the media for wanting to trumpet a very compelling message encouraging readers to take action with the vaccine. But in a society where 6 in 10 people only read a headline before sharing an article on social media, details and nuance are no match for optimism.
Addressing Vaccine Enthusiasm to Build Trust
For vaccine hesitancy, communicators are breaking down barriers and reaching audiences that had previously proved challenging to engage. They’re doing this through a multi-channel approach to messaging, changing the focus of their email strategy, and diving more deeply into understanding pain points in their audiences, just to name a few strategies.
More age groups and populations are becoming eligible for vaccine access, along with more post-vaccination guidelines. So it’s even more important for agencies to communicate complete, accurate, and clear information about the steps needed to receive the vaccine, when it will be available, and what people will be able to do once they have completed the vaccine regimen.
No one wants the government to rain on their parade or undercut their enthusiasm. But agencies that go beyond the headlines to tell the full story of these changes will continue to build trust with their communities.
Subject headlines such as “What the Latest CDC Guidelines Mean to You” or “What to Expect After Receiving the Vaccine” will help keep expectations realistic. They also show that the agency is taking a holistic approach, addressing the context of the vaccine process. It’s telling citizens that their government is looking out for their wellbeing both now and after their vaccine. The goal is more than delivering the shots.
Staying Focused, Staying Agile
Strong communications strategies have core messages that provide a touchstone for all communications within that plan. These core messages come from clearly-determined goals and outcomes developed early in planning.
Many strategies suffer when goals or intended outcomes shift to address audience changes without adjusting the core strategy. This kind of reactionary response can lead to failure and frustration. Tactics and messaging are much more fluid than goals and outcomes. Adjusting these presents an easier solution when a strategy needs to adapt.
The same goes when responding to vaccine enthusiasm. Dealing with possible misinformation or inaccurate information doesn’t require new goals must be created. Recognize that this is a variation of vaccine hesitancy. With that approach, communicators can take the same steps and adjust messaging already sent through current channels.
The thin line between being responsive and being reactionary comes down to connecting tactical changes to the strategy’s core.
One easy and beneficial way to make these adjustments to COVID vaccination strategy is by adjusting messaging in govDelivery emails. Make sure that the messages being sent address not only the issues identified in vaccine hesitancy but provide a response to changes that can create confusion regarding vaccine enthusiasm.
Learn more about how govDelivery can keep your communications flexible and responsive during times of change.