Over the past couple of months, people all over have been following vaccine-related news with excitement and anticipation. As the biggest pharmaceutical companies competed over efficacy rates, government approvals, and which one would be the first to go-to-market, you could almost imagine the crowds cheering from their living rooms. Now that the vaccines are here, health services worldwide embark on an equally bold endeavor: inoculating billions of people so we can get back to our old, normal lives.
However, many people are concerned about the short- and long-term effects of the vaccine. Consequently, they either prefer to stand by and hold off getting the shot for now or vehemently lobby against it on social networks and anything in-between. A recent study on the general sentiment towards Covid-19 vaccines in 19 countries found that acceptance rates range from 90% to 55%. In the UK, only 60% of adults stated that they would take the vaccine, and a similar percentage of Americans – a significant improvement from only a couple of months ago, but there’s still work to do.
Understandably, these reactions stem from the record time the vaccine came about, tested, and approved, raising some to question whether researchers took a few shortcuts. However, The dispute around vaccines started long before the pandemic. Now, as we’re nearing 2M deaths and after almost a year of economic standstill, it might just be more critical than ever to address the anti-vaxxers’ point of view. Furthermore, the global interest in vaccines and health matters could also be somewhat of an opportunity for governments, pharma companies, and healthcare professionals to educate the general public, battle against misinformation, and rest people’s minds at ease.
Back in 2017, the WHO issued its guidelines on vaccines and public trust. These include establishing a “mechanism for routine communication and aligned messaging and sharing information.“ In other words, other than facts and science, healthcare officials and professionals will need advanced communication technology solutions by their side to assume control over the narrative. For that, especially given the magnitude of the task, video platforms seem to be the most tangible solution. Here are a few ideas on how.
- Training: Pharma companies can use HCP engagement platforms to offer training programs based on online webinars, live sessions with leading scientists, VR-assisted tutorials, and more. Content should consist of both medical information and tips on how to address people’s hesitation and refusal.
- Knowledge Sharing: The pharma world can also start a peer-to-peer community to let healthcare professionals learn from one another and share knowledge on an ongoing basis. The same HCP engagement platforms are ideal for it if they include easy content creation tools, asynchronous viewing, and live communication features, allowing anyone to produce and consume content.
- Public Education: Even in this post-truth era, experts and science boast a certain aura of respect, clearing the path for an open dialogue. Hence, we must put doctors and nurses at the forefront of this effort. If they can speak to their patients directly and personally, that’s even better. However, other than one-on-one meetings, we should also push for live few-to-many Q&A sessions and VOD.
- Data Collection: With interactive video features like questionnaires and polls, authorities can learn about public perceptions as they change over time and guide their efforts accordingly. For example, they can map specific regions that should be addressed separately and strategize together with pharma companies.
- Open Communication: Authorities should use video platforms to create a dedicated channel sustaining a steady stream of information available to all. This channel can be used to publish and explain what populations are prioritized, how many have been vaccinated, etc. Preferably, this channel will also open more opportunities to get more medical professionals involved in the process and contribute.
At the turn of this challenging year, we should take a minute to appreciate the heights of innovation and excellence to which the global medicinal and healthcare community has reached. The fact that a vaccine is ready for use in as little as a year after the virus was first diagnosed is nothing short of an engineering feat. But even though the end of this crazy epoch is finally in sight, the job isn’t over yet. Especially now, we have to advocate for vaccines’ merit and safety and fight the pandemic of misinformation and mistrust.
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