Consistent messaging vital for vaccine rollout

Dec 24, 2020

There is a saying in computer science: Garbage in, garbage out. In short, it means that if your input is lousy, your output will be, too. You’ve got to frontload your effort.

Earlier this month, an Emergency Use Authorization was given by the United States Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine and the first doses made their way to health care facilities across the country Dec. 14. In the United Kingdom, vaccinations are already underway and with very few exceptions the rollout has been without incident.

While more than half the population is breathing a collective sigh of relief and have indicated that they will receive the vaccine when it becomes available to them, health care officials may have an uphill battle getting the rest of the population to also get in line.

The success of a vaccine, in large part, depends on a high rate of acceptance. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, between 75% and 85% of the population need to become vaccinated in order for the pandemic to retreat and to ensure a return to normal that people so desperately want.

A recent Gallup survey shows that roughly 6 in 10 people are willing to get the coronavirus vaccine. That is short of what is needed, but it is better than the 50% that answered the same question just a few short months ago. The study also found that Democrats (75%) were more willing than Republicans (50%) to be vaccinated and that non-white adults (53%) and those ages 45 to 64 (52%) were among those least willing to receive a vaccination.

It is vitally important that a national communication strategy be developed to manage not only the flow of actual information about the vaccine, but to combat the groundswell of misinformation that is bubbling just below the surface.

In 1956, Elvis Presley famously received the polio vaccination on camera as a way to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. At least three former presidents have said they would be willing to take the coronavirus vaccine on camera as a way to ease potential fears, but without clear and consistent messaging, attempts to reach the American people are likely to be lost in the fractured media landscape.

We urge our congressional delegation to push for a nationwide communication strategy and for our state officials to develop strong messaging around the need for all Mainers to become vaccinated. We remind those officials to meet people where they are with a cross-section of methods, including social media. And finally, we urge them to engage as many people as possible to spread the message. Trusted messengers will be critically important in the coming days and weeks.

Reprinted from The Ellsworth American.

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