National Institutes of Health
COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence
hesitancy, confidence, communication, messaging
Although newly developed COVID-19 vaccines are poised to be a powerful tool in the control of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, the public’s confidence in and willingness to receive the vaccines will determine the outcome of this mass-scale public health intervention. This report, which was developed in consultation with leading experts in social and behavioral sciences and public health, outlines evidence-informed communication strategies in support of national COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts across federal agencies and their state and local partners. The recommendations put forth are actionable and responsive to the unique challenges faced by the United States in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report relies on a few foundational practices of effective health communication, namely coordinated communication and consistent messaging, trust building through partnerships, consideration of different health literacy levels in the population, and importantly, prioritizing equity in all aspects of communication. We build on these foundational principles to outline three intersecting considerations for communication efforts (What is being communicated, Who is the target of the message, and How the message is communicated), along with concrete recommendations for targeted and tailored communication that responds to the needs and perspectives of the intended audience.