Communication and Trust: Keeping the Public Informed and On Board


Feb 22, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is a monumental challenge across multiple domains for any country. One major aspect that governments must consider ensuring is clear communication and maintaining the trust of their populations. In fact, two of the key issues in this regard are almost mirror images of each other.

Firstly, vaccine hesitancy has gained momentum globally in recent years, helped by misinformation that is often spread online. Now more than ever, it is paramount that people believe in the science rather than the myths about vaccines. Politicians and health experts need to convince the public of the safety and efficacy demonstrated in clinical trials, to minimize the number of people who refuse to get vaccinated.

Secondly, we know that incredibly high demand for COVID-19 vaccines will far exceed supply for the time being. Large swathes of populations will be waiting months or years before they are immunized. National leaders have drawn up prioritisation strategies so that those who need it most are at the front of the queue (mostly comprising the elderly, medically vulnerable, and healthcare workers). The unenviable task here is informing each group of society when they are due their dose of the vaccine, and coherently justifying this decision.

Operation Vaccination: An Analysis of Global COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Strategies is a weekly post which will explore the policy, logistics, obstacles and controversies involved in procuring and distributing vaccines against COVID-19.

The theme of this week is “Communication and Trust: Keeping the Public Informed and On Board”.

Focusing on the 9 countries featured in this blog (Brazil, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Nigeria, Taiwan, UK, US) and COVAX, communication strategies are analysed, focusing on mitigating vaccine hesitancy and explanations of the structure and timing of immunization drives. Other areas discussed include conspiracy theories, concerns over vaccines being rushed through the approval process, the use of social media influencers, potential breaches of patient privacy, allegations of skipping the queue, a previous vaccine programme derailed by misinformation, and crucially, how to keep the public’s faith when things inevitably go wrong.

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