Why A/B testing could be key to COVID-19 vaccine promotion

Vaccine hesitancy and resistance can stem from a variety of factors, so it's critical that healthcare communication professionals appeal to the concerns of specific populations when promoting COVID-19 vaccines. What works in one state could be ineffective in another, according to a Sept. 25 Bloomberg report.

To see which messages and imagery resonate best with specific vaccine-hesitant audiences, some researchers are using A/B testing, a technique often included in marketing strategies. A/B testing occurs when two or more variants of a web page are shown to users at random and an analysis is conducted to determine which page performs better.

Two nonprofits — UNICEF and The Public Good Projects — teamed up with New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University's Institute for Global Health to establish the Vaccine Demand Observatory, which is working with Facebook to help countries tailor their vaccine promotion efforts to their residents' concerns.

The observatory will build on research Facebook and UNICEF conducted earlier in the year to see how audiences around the world responded to COVID-19 vaccine messaging. Researchers showed COVID-19 vaccine content to more than 100 million Facebook users across six countries, tweaking the content's message, tone, style and format. The experiment found that different messaging performed better depending on where users were from.

The Vaccine Demand Observatory will conduct the experiment on a larger, more scientifically-based scale in four countries. The content that performs the best will be compared to standard messaging to determine whether outcomes like vaccine uptake rates are affected.

"We need to test our vaccine messaging for efficacy and safety just as we test our vaccines for efficacy and safety," Angus Thomson, PhD, a UNICEF scientist who studies vaccine demand, told Bloomberg.


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