7 healthcare leaders share messages, marketing strategies that encourage COVID-19 vaccinations  

Facing challenges ranging from misinformation campaigns to public hesitancy, healthcare leaders are sharing the messages they want to spread to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and some of the strategies their organizations are taking for marketing campaigns.

Here are seven messages and marketing campaign strategies that physicians and healthcare organizations want to push for vaccine education:

1. Austin Chiang, MD, chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health, shared with The New York Times his advice for communicating with the public about vaccine education on social media platforms, including TikTok: 

"It's tricky. When we talk about vaccines as health professionals, people who are vehemently anti-vaccine can take it out of context for their agenda. That makes me hold back sometimes," he said. "The approach that I try to take is to leave room for the gray. If you say vaccines don't cause any harm and are the best things in the world, it can alienate people who are vaccine hesitant. If we instead acknowledge that there are risks just like anything else in medicine and life, it's a more effective message."

2. William Schaffner, MD, preventive medicine and infectious diseases professor at Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC News that the first message officials needs to get out to the general population is that it's normal to feel COVID-19-like symptoms after inoculation. 

"I think the first thing we need to tell people is that this is not COVID. Don't worry about that. You can't get COVID from the vaccine," he said. "These side effects are really a manifestation of your immune system starting to come to grips. It shows - 'Whoa, my system is working – not bad.'" 

3. There needs to be open discussions between healthcare professionals and the public about the potentially unpleasant side effects that may occur from getting the vaccine, which could deter people from coming back for their second dose or taking it altogether, said Paul Offit, MD, director of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's vaccine education center, according to ABC News

"I wish the immune system had a better public relations team working because, I mean, it's just a natural consequence of having an activated immune system," Dr. Offit said. "But I think it does matter because you're not going to vaccinate your whole emergency department, and have them potentially be out the next day."

4. Cory Shield, DO, internal medicine physician at CHI Health St. Elizabeth in Lincoln, Neb., told local news network KOLN that the message he and his healthcare colleagues want to spread is that the vaccine is safe. 

"We're all part of humanity, too. We understand the risk," he said. "It's not easy, but we hope that the message shows that we trust the system and this is a very important thing. Really, we need to get back to normalcy."

5. Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health rolled out a campaign called "Crush COVID-19" to spread information and build the public's trust in the vaccine, according to Greenwich Sentinel

"We're going to be working with community organizations throughout the state of Connecticut to get that word out as well, and we're going to be working with our medical staff," Vin Petri, senior vice president and head of public affairs at Yale New Haven Health, told the publication. 

6. Stickers that individuals can wear to show they have been vaccinated may be another effective means to communicate with the public and encourage vaccination, Covid Tracking Project Science Communication Lead and epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera told CNN

"I definitely think that public health swag has some weight," she said. "The flu vaccine band aid has become iconic. Something similar like that for Covid-19, like a button or a sticker, would be something that I would personally wear proudly and encourage others to as well. … There's definitely psychology to it. The 'I got the flu shot' sticker for healthcare providers definitely gives patients and people coming to hospital settings some confidence that they are entering places that are safe and protected."

7. In October, the Colorado health department conducted focus groups with people in the Black, Polynesian, Hispanic and Latino and Native American communities to identify reasons for vaccine hesitancy. It found that there's "a historical lack of trust between these communities and the government," so the department plans to launch a mass media campaign highlighting its work with trusted people in each community, including community centers and churches as places people would be more likely to get vaccinated. 

"That was a real eye opener to us, and it really made us think twice about how we were communicating and putting our message out," department spokesperson Tom Hudachko told local CBS affiliate KUTV


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