Combating Vaccine Hesitancy Through Messaging

Combating Vaccine Hesitancy Through Messaging

April 21, 20212 min read

As vaccine hesitancy becomes a threat to Americans' decision to get the COVID vaccine, persuasive messaging is at the forefront of changing people's minds.

Allyson Levin, PhD, a visiting assistant professor of communication, believes social media messaging plays a key role—and that post-vaccination selfies can actually help convince people to get the vaccine.

"When we don't know what to do, we look to others to guide our behavior," stated Dr. Levin. "It is really important when we see people who share online that they were vaccinated—who are close to us, our friends or family and people we look up to like influencers and celebrities."

Further, online communities create a world where it appears that people are getting vaccinated actively. "If we look around and see an environment where people are getting vaccinated, we will want to get vaccinated as well. That will encourage vaccination. At least if we trust those people around us," said Dr. Levin.

Dr. Levin also contends that the social media platform TikTok can be extremely useful when information is "scientifically valid, evidence-based and coming from people who understand science like medical professionals."

"A unique opportunity we have with TikTok is that users are receiving health information when they aren't looking for it," said Dr. Levin.

In addition, she notes the incredible impact company advertisements endorsing COVID vaccinations have had on their wider acceptance.

"At the end of the day, it is wonderful that brands are amplifying these messages, like Budweiser donating their airtime during the Super Bowl. There is an element of public relations, too: The brands look good for promoting these messages. But the more people that see these messages, the better."

However, Dr. Levin pointed out that, while messaging is extremely important, vaccine availability is crucial. "Access is equally important. Unless people can actually have access to the vaccinations, the message is just one part of it," stated Dr. Levin.

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