Canadians are in desperate need of information about COVID-19 vaccines. As Canada begins to outline their communication strategy, it cannot miss any steps.
A recent survey conducted by Ipsos showed that 56% of Canadians support the COVID-19 vaccine. In comparison, 37% oppose, and 33% of Canadians are worried about the vaccine side effects.
Another study conducted by the Angus Reid Institute revealed that most Canadians find the current situation that we are in to be a complete government failure. In fact, 57% of Canadians say the federal government has done a poor job securing doses. There is a concerning lack of faith in the Government of Canada as only 42% of Canadian’s believe the vaccine rollout will meet its targeted timeline. As vaccines continue to be rolled out, Canada’s communication strategy towards the COVID-19 vaccine therefore needs to ramp up to help address concerns of vaccine hesitancy.
Communication strategies are crucial tools in public health. If implemented well, they can provide accessible, accurate information to various groups and communities. This is evermore critical as there is currently distrust between Canadians and the federal government. The Government of Canada should implement a communication strategy as quickly as possible to prevent further misinformation from spreading. Canada plans to implement a public education campaign in spring 2021. The campaign is set to include: regular updates on vaccine distribution and administration, advertising and marketing vaccine information on all platforms, and delivering facts to address misinformation.
Further campaigns are underway to combat vaccine hesitancy and misinformation through community-led projects, developing educational resources, and supporting local efforts.
To ensure that every Canadian has equal access to information regarding the vaccine, the federal government can use several information channels. The Government should use each communication channel to correct false information. Here are some important communication strategies and tactics for educating the public about COVID-19 vaccines:
The main goal of any public education campaign should be to establish communication between public health officials and community members. For instance, listening to community concerns and effectively communicating evidence-based strategies can improve vaccine uptake.
Within these dialogues, it is important to bear in mind that trust is a significant factor that needs to be built and maintained. Currently, many public members are hesitant towards the vaccine due to historical inequitable health care and research practices. Each community and group should therefore have an opportunity to voice their concerns. This way, everyone can receive the correct information and feel ensured that the vaccine distribution will be safe and equitable.
People are more inclined to believe someone that they have built trust with over the years. There needs to therefore be a collaboration with public health officials, academics, healthcare associations and the general public. Similarly, encouraging teachers, doctors, and childcare personnel can serve as another credible source of information. By giving the correct information to trusted individuals such as these, people can become more willing to trust and head their professional opinions.
Another key communication strategy is forming partnerships between government and community organizations. One way of facilitating this is by relaying up-to-date information to the public. For instance, engaging with prominent community members can provide the public with a trusted voice and allow for two-way dialogue. The community members can then pass this information on in the best way that serves the community (i.e. religious gatherings, community centres, town hall meetings, etc.).
Safe spaces to criticize and express concerns about the vaccine are critical. It is important to hear various concerns leading to vaccine hesitancy and the reasons behind them. For instance, factors within our history can contribute to current levels of distrust within our communities, which we need to better understand and acknowledge. Making efforts to hear various opinions, while working towards addressing distrust towards the public health system and/or government are therefore crucial. They can allow for more open communication and for new and potentially more relevant communication strategies to be implemented.
Absolute transparency is the building block for trust. As each vaccine becomes available, the public is entitled to know which one it is, whom it is recommended to, and kept up to date with any changes. There must also be constant reminders that each vaccine has gone through testing, and safety is the top priority. As vaccines continue to get rolled out, it is imperative that transparency is prioritized and upheld, especially as we continue to get new insights and data about the virus and vaccines.
Overall, communication strategies are critical tools that can enable individuals to make important, informed decisions over their health and well-being. If you are currently on the fence about receiving the vaccine, contact your local public health unit, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website or check out trusted media sources for more information.