The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Societal Experts Action Network (SEAN) (see COSSA’s previous coverage) has published a new guidance on Understanding and Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and Effectiveness. The guidance is intended to help public officials prepare and evaluate their communications efforts around vaccination. It is available as an interactive web tool, with highlights on Communicating Vaccine Efficacy and on Communicating About Efficacy and Effectiveness in the Context of Equity in Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution, as well as a full report on the National Academies website.
On February 19, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing on “The Science of COVID-19 Vaccines and Encouraging Vaccine Uptake.” The Committee heard testimony from Professor in Vaccinology and Director at the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Director and Health Authority at the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Philip Huang, Deputy Commissioner at the Oklahoma State Department of Health Keith Reed, and the Scientific Director at the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics and Associate Professor of Nursing and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing Dr. Alison Buttenheim. The hearing was overseen by Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK).
Throughout the hearing, varying were views expressed over whether supply or demand of vaccines should be the focus. Dr. Huang reminded the Committee that vaccine hesitancy remains an issue, and Dr. Neuzil advocated for more investment into social science research for a better understanding of vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Buttenheim and Dr. Huang both advocated for removing logistical hurdles preventing citizens from getting discouraged by protocols. The witnesses also criticized the framing of “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s vaccine development and distribution initiative, as a potential contributor to public fear of the speed of vaccine development. They also cautioned against proposing incentives for vaccination, on the grounds that it would send the wrong message around vaccines.
There was also discussion around differences between the several versions of the vaccine and how citizens could be overwhelmed by choosing which vaccine to take. Dr. Buttenheim advocated for reducing the cognitive load for citizens by bringing all authorized COVID-19 vaccines under one label like influenza vaccines. Two Committee members, Mike Garcia (R-CA) and Randy Weber (R-TX), raised concerns over this approach—Garcia agreed with the science behind the reasoning, but believed this could do more harm than good in the long-term. Every witness agreed that communication coming from local and trusted medical leaders must be clear and consistent to allow diverse strategies that best serve the populations equitably and build long-term confidence. Dr. Buttenheim laid out specific strategies in her written testimony. The hearing is available on the Committee on Science, Space, & Technology’s website.
This article was contributed by Nicholas Lynn, COSSA’s spring intern.
During the January 14 COSSA Headlines webinar, Drs. Christine Hunter and Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, two of the co-authors of the recent National Institutes of Health report on COVID-19 Vaccination Communication , shared an overview of the report. They also provided a summary of the report’s recommendations that communities can utilize to ensure that messaging about the entire COVID-19 vaccination process relies on evidence-backed strategies. These are available as a one-page tip sheet. A recording of the webinar and the slides are posted to the COSSA website.
A panel of social and behavioral scientists coordinated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released a report titled “COVID-19 Vaccination Communication: Applying Behavioral and Social Science to Address Vaccine Hesitancy and Foster Vaccine Confidence.” The report, led by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), outlines research-based strategies to communicate the importance of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine while addressing the challenges of vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. The strategies laid out in this report are largely based on the fundamentals of communication research while including specific considerations for individuals at highest risk of contracting the virus such as healthcare workers and older adults.
Some of the strategies included in the report are:
- Using accurate and transparent messaging without exaggeration;
- Provoking positive emotions rather than negative emotions in messaging;
- Corresponding through trusted sources of information to the target audience;
- Framing vaccination as a social norm;
- Reaching out early to those that are hesitant about vaccines to help form their views; and
- Build trust slowly with those who mistrust vaccines through compassion and empathy with the goal to encourage vaccinations in the future.
The report is available on the OBSSR website.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has released a discussion draft of a Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine, part of a fast-track study initiated over the summer (see previous coverage). The discussion draft, released September 1, aims to identify priorities to inform allocation of a limited initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine, taking into account factors such as racial/ethnic inequities and groups at higher risk due to health status, occupation, or living conditions. Feedback will be collected during a public listening session on September 2 as well as through a written comment period closing on September 4. The fast track study intends to have a final report ready for release by early October. More information about the study, including instructions for submitting feedback, is available on the NASEM website.
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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has launched a fast-track study to develop a framework for planning the equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. The study, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is responsible for producing a consensus report that considers the following questions:
- “What criteria should be used in setting priorities for equitable allocation of vaccine?
- How should the criteria be applied in determining the first tier of vaccine recipients? As more vaccine becomes available, what populations should be added successively to the priority list of recipients? How do we take into account factors such as:
- Health disparities and other health access issues
- Individuals at higher risk (e.g., elderly, underlying health conditions)
- Occupations at higher risk (e.g., health care workers, essential industries, meat packing plants, military)
- Populations at higher risk (e.g., racial and ethnic groups, incarcerated individuals, residents of nursing homes, individuals who are homeless)
- Geographic distribution of active virus spread
- Countries/populations involved in clinical trials
- How will the framework apply in various scenarios (e.g., different characteristics of vaccines and differing available doses)?
- If multiple vaccine candidates are available, how should we ensure equity?
- How can countries ensure equity in allocation of COVID-19 vaccines?
- For the US, how can communities of color be assured access to vaccination?
- How can we communicate to the American public about vaccine allocation to minimize perceptions of lack of equity?
- What steps should be taken to mitigate vaccine hesitancy, especially among high-priority populations?”
During the open session of the committee’s first meeting on July 27, National Academy of Medicine President Victor Dzau announced that the committee is planning to produce a discussion draft released for public comment by early September, hold a public workshop to collect additional feedback, and issue its final recommendations by early October. The study committee is co-chaired by Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, and William H. Foege, Emeritus Presidential Distinguished Professor of International Health, Emory University. More information about the study is available on the National Academies website.
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