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How Tailored Outreach Can Transform COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy into Vaccine Acceptance

On the COVID-19 front, the new year is off to a promising start as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines bring us one step closer to controlling the current pandemic. Regulatory approval, however, isn’t the same as public acceptance. The journey towards greater normality in our lives will gain significant momentum only when the majority of Americans are willing to be vaccinated.

Fortunately, trends are starting to move in the right direction. In December 2020, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor conducted a survey which found that 71% of respondents would either definitely or probably get a vaccine. This was up eight percent from a KFF and ESPN survey conducted in September 2020.

Until large numbers of people are vaccinated for COVID-19, herd immunity will remain out of reach. Tailored member and patient outreach is one way that health plans and providers can help transform vaccine hesitancy into vaccine acceptance.

COVID-19 Vaccine Attitudes and Beliefs Vary Across Demographic Groups

Perceptions about COVID-19 vaccines differ by geographic region, gender, and ethnicity. For instance, research has found that over one third (35%) of Americans who live in rural areas say they either won’t or probably won’t get the vaccine. In contrast, around one quarter (26%) of urban Americans express similar views.

A survey conducted by the Texas A&M University School of Public Health revealed that women are 71% more likely than the population as a whole to decline COVID-19 vaccines, while Black respondents were 41% more likely not to get a vaccine. From a public health perspective, these statistics are troubling since the CDC reported in November 2020 that Black people were 1.4 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die from the virus than their white peers.

These variations suggest that personalized and targeted messages about the safety and efficacy of vaccines are needed to combat hesitancy. The good news is that tailored communication campaigns have worked well in the public health arena. This approach, for example, was effective in addressing the AIDS epidemic in the United States.

More Persuasive COVID-19 Vaccine Messages Rely on Tailored Messages and Media

Since healthcare providers and plans are viewed as a trusted source of information, they are uniquely qualified to speak to patients and members about the safety, efficacy, and availability of COVID-19 vaccines. KFF surveys have found that 85% of individuals trust their own doctor or healthcare provider for reliable vaccine-related data.

To engage members and patients with persuasive information about COVID-19 vaccines, plans and providers should focus on four actions:

  1. Address the top reasons for vaccine hesitancy. Research shows that common reasons that people are concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine include possible side effects, fear about safety and effectiveness, and the belief that they will contract the virus from the vaccine. Outreach messages should combat these issues with credible information.
     
  2. Tailor your messages. The most persuasive public health messages include personal stories from individuals who are similar to the target audience. This strategy may help when conducting outreach to individuals in different geographic areas, age groups, genders, or ethnicity. It also may be effective for individuals with chronic health conditions that increase the risk of more severe cases of COVID-19. When engaging audiences using other languages, it’s critical to use culturally adapted content that incorporates the correct idioms.
     
  3. Use your audience’s preferred modes of communication. Different people prefer different modes of communication. Some like phone calls from their healthcare providers and plans, while others prefer text messages or emails. When crafting COVID-19 vaccine-related messages, it’s important to use each person’s preferred method of communication.
     
  4. Leverage technology. Patient and member engagement solutions can streamline the process of communicating with individuals through phone, text, and the web. They can also simplify the analytics required for audience segmentation and tailored messages.

Combatting the COVID-19 pandemic requires a concerted effort from the healthcare sector and citizens alike. When it comes to vaccines, winning the hearts and minds of individuals will take a tailored and targeted approach. The good news is that effective tools and techniques already exist to engage with members and patients.

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.

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