This year began with great hope, as the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines and states began rolling out immunizations to the most vulnerable populations. According to the CDC, as of February 11, 10.5% of the American population has received at least one dose of vaccine and 3.4% have received two doses. This is encouraging news, but the work of immunizing the nation has just begun.
People are hungry for more information about when, where and how they can get vaccinated. In response, health plans and providers must develop communication strategies that proactively answer questions, minimize inbound calls to customer service representatives and maximize the number of individuals who get receive the vaccine.
As you design your organization’s COVID-19 vaccination outreach campaigns, here are five communication best practices to keep in mind:
- Provide timely information. A good first step is to reach out to your customer service teams. Ask them to identify the most frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. Be sure to incorporate answers to those questions into your communications for members and patients. Include information about when different groups will be eligible for the vaccine, where people can get vaccinated, how to schedule an appointment, and whether there will be any out-of-pocket costs or co-pays associated with the vaccine.
- Educate. Remind people that the vaccine will not only keep them healthy, it will also provide health benefits to their families and communities. Many individuals are concerned about possible side effects of the vaccine. Be sure to hit that topic head on with factual, easy-to-understand information. It’s also essential to remind people about the need for continued masking, social distancing and frequent handwashing – both before getting vaccinated and afterwards.
- Evaluate intent. If a member or patient hasn’t received the vaccine yet, consider the rationale behind that decision and try to address potential barriers head on. Vaccine hesitancy may be based on misperceptions that can be dispelled with clear, convincing information. In some instances, people may face transportation-related challenges, language barriers or concerns about their ability to pay. Including resources can help, such as links to public transportation services or the phone number for customer service reps that speak other languages.
- Remind. Once an individual receives their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the need for communication doesn’t go away. To ensure full immunization, health plans and providers must remind people to get their second dose. Reminders are particularly important in today’s flexible work-from-home and learn-from-home world, where routines and schedules can be topsy-turvy at best. It’s a good idea to send out a second dose reminder 15 days after a person gets their first injection.
- Be ready to pivot. Information about the COVID-19 vaccine is evolving rapidly. You should be prepared to change your messaging quickly. Your communications must contain information that is relevant, personalized and up-to-date for members and patients. You may want to alert people when new phases of the vaccine rollout open up in their states, as well as notify them about any potential delays or vaccine shortages.
Vaccine communication efforts are often complicated and disjointed, resulting in public confusion. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. By following these five tips, you can do your part to educate and activate individuals in the coming weeks and months. Timely, relevant, multi-channel, multi-touch outreach campaigns will play an important role in our journey back to a more normal existence.
To learn more about how a tailored approach to health engagement can help your organization navigate COVID-19 vaccination education and access, register for our upcoming complimentary webinar, COVID-19 Vaccine Communications.