Inching Closer to Herd Immunity

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While COVID vaccine rollout news garners plenty of media attention in a world desperate to move on from the pandemic as soon as possible, the nature of the coverage is often sensational (a Wisconsin pharmacist purposely trashed vaccines!) or short-sighted (obsessing over present-day supply chain challenges). Whether anxiously angling for vaccinations for themselves or loved ones, or decrying the bumpy roll-out of the vaccine so far, the issue is top-of-mind for the majority of Americans. But even as America looks ahead to that seemingly distant day when all supply and distribution issues are largely resolved, there remain worrying signs regarding vaccine acceptance overall that could significantly damage herd immunity efforts.  Vaccine hesitancy has been a recognized threat since the start of the pandemic when the COVID vaccine was still just a distant fantasy and “Plandemic” videos were going viral online. Levels of hesitancy in public surveys have ebbed and flowed, and will undoubtedly continue doing so as more people get vaccinated. While COVID vaccine skeptics are in the minority, they pose a real threat to herd immunity goals, especially if this group expands (a distinct possibility as increased chatter about side effects for the newly vaccinated - sometimes true and other times intentionally deceptive - proliferates online). Influential individuals and organizations must play a critical role in proactively addressing concerns, as there will be substantial impact to human life, the survival of institutions, and the economy as a whole if the pace of vaccination flags in a manner that needlessly extends the length of the pandemic. We have already seen many large-scale awareness campaigns addressing this issue. For example, the HSS launched a national ad campaign in December, with videos promoting vaccine awareness featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci, the FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, and Dr. Moncef Slaoui. While organizations of many different stripes across the business world are motivated to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates, the steps they must take to overcome consumer hesitancy can feel unclear. Especially because the root of hesitancy varies widely by demographic. The issue is not black and white and concerns are manifold. Therefore, the messages and channels used to address and allay vaccine-related concerns must be tailored. A message from Dr. Fauci vividly detailing vaccine development may be useful in persuading those who are skeptical about the science behind vaccines. But for a person of color who is skeptical about vaccines due to concerns about fair representation in clinical trials, or the long-standing history of racism in institutionalized medicine, Dr. Fauci may be a relatively ineffective influencer. Nearly every type of organization has a vested interest in this issue, as a return to normalcy will rely heavily on widespread vaccination. But Hospitals and Health Systems are triply affected, as they need to operate during a global pandemic, vaccinate the population, and treat patients with COVID-19. Luckily, hospitals are also well positioned to create positive change. Data from Gartner’s Consumer Community shows that when consumers were asked which sources would influence their feelings about the vaccine, the highest ranked sources were doctors and health institutions. Healthcare organizations should first proactively deepen their understanding of their specific target audience’s attitudes and perceptions regarding the vaccine, which are largely impacted by race, geography, and political background. Next, they should leverage their prominence, trust, and society’s nearly undivided attention at the moment to educate and influence their patients to accept the vaccine when it becomes available to them. For details on how marketing leaders can jumpstart that vital process for their respective organizations read the following: 4 Healthcare Marketing Tactics to Overcome the Threat of Vaccine Hesitancy (subscription required) Consumers Indicate Willingness to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine, but Marketers Should Prepare for a Cautious Return to ‘Normal’ (subscription required)

Source: Gartner Blog Network On:

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