Brownstein published a study in October highlighting of the things associated with willingness to take a COVID vaccine. He and his co-authors found the effectiveness, serious side effects, and how long a vaccine’s protection might last were among the important considerations for people when weighing whether to be vaccinated.
“All the science in the world is not going to make a difference if we can't get people to get this immunization,” Brownstein says. “I think we need to be putting much more investment both at the national scale and the local level into communications.”
While the government has spent a reported $18 billion to develop and deliver the vaccines, it has spent far less educating the public about them.
And historically, government hasn’t done a great job grasping or responding to the threat posed by misinformation on social media.
“CDC, in its good days, did many things spectacularly well. Public information and communication that grab the public has never been one of them,” says Barry Bloom, PhD, a professor of global health at Harvard University.
“One of the things we’ve learned in public health … providing people with public service announcements is the equivalent of putting them to sleep,” he says. “It doesn’t motivate anybody, and it usually doesn’t stick.”
Bloom says he’s banking on the creativity and savvy of private groups like the Ad Council to marshal the public, much the way the March of Dimes did for polio in the 1950s.
He says the March of Dimes, which was a small private foundation before it took up the cause of polio, became a grassroots movement that galvanized a nation to vaccination.
“It was a pure social marketing from a private foundation with no government backing at all,” Bloom says.
Though it is not clear in our divided social and political moment who could repeat that feat.
Public Information Lacking Amid COVID Vaccine Push,
Article: Public Information Lacking Amid COVID Vaccine Push
Joe Smyser, PhD, chief executive officer, Public Good Projects.
Mark Weber, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.
Heidi Larson, PhD, professor of anthropology, risk, and decision science, and director, Vaccine Confidence Project, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
John Brownstein, PhD, chief innovation officer, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston.
Barry Bloom, PhD, Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson research professor of global health, Harvard University, Boston.
American Nurses Foundation, Survey, October 2020.
Pew Research Center, Survey, Nov. 18-20, 2020.
Science, March 8, 2018.
JAMA Network Open, Oct. 20, 2020.