The public health battle to promote vaccination to mitigate sickness, death, and economic impact from COVID-19 is largely waged at the individual level, due to the United States’ culture of individualism, independence, and autonomy. While we all have a critical stake in the pandemic’s impacts, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities’ historical distrust and lower uptake of vaccines, as well as lower access to health services, have contributed to higher rates of hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19. There is also some indication that widespread misinformation and disinformation about COVID has penetrated BIPOC communities as well as others, contributing to these problems.
To help community-based organizations (CBOs) build vaccine confidence in their communities through information campaigns, we’ve been working with the Partnering for Vaccine Equity Program (P4VE) on its Vaccine Resource Hub (VRH). The VRH offers social media graphics and videos and other resources such as flyers and talking points to those working to increase COVID-19 or flu vaccination. There is a specific emphasis on materials that are culturally appropriate to people who are BIPOC, and many of these assets are unbranded, so the CBOs can tailor them with their own branding and design. All resources are reviewed for clarity, accuracy, and consistency with best practices, and the VRH is reviewed regularly to remove outdated material and update the “Trending Topics” section.
The Vaccine Resource Hub includes the following:
- More than 500 resources to encourage COVID-19 and flu vaccination
- Social media assets, flyers, toolkits, fact sheets, talking points
- Resources in more than 30 languages
- Searchability by date, topic, language, population
Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
Ready-to-use resources are important.
Originally, the VRH was envisioned as a platform where the more than 200 CBOs funded under the P4VE Program could share their population-focused resources with each other. However, we’ve learned that they are too busy working on the ground in their communities to develop and share their own resources. In a recent webinar, we asked CBOs what factor was most responsible for preventing them from creating material and submitting to the site, and the most common answer was “time.” Fortunately, a core group of organizations, including such BIPOC-focused groups as NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Atlanta, Culture ONE World, and The Public Good Projects, were funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop social media assets and other user-friendly materials for the CBOs. Without this funding and development, the CBOs would not have the resources they need.
Keeping messages current is critical.
COVID-19 science and vaccine guidance has evolved quickly, making it both challenging and critical to keep VRH resources current. It’s clear that users want the newest resources, as 17 of the top 20 resources downloaded in January and February of 2022 were posted since December. Our content management team removed more than 100 outdated resources in January alone, many of which had only just been created in late 2021. The VRH’s success will depend on a continuing flow of new content and vigilance on the part of our team to review and exclude outdated resources. Content creators can keep their resources relevant for longer by avoiding specific information that will change (for example, time-bound death or case rate statistics) when it is possible to make the same point without specific numbers. For example, a message designed to contrast hospitalization risk for unvaccinated people with that of vaccinated people could avoid using the latest specific data, which is likely to change, and instead state that unvaccinated people “have a substantially higher risk” of hospitalization. This statement is unlikely to become outdated and still makes a strong point.
Myth-busting content in the form of social media videos and graphics are in great demand and provide insight into how people access, share, and consume information.
The most downloaded resource in January–February 2022 was a social media graphic from the Truth Check Campaign on fact-checking social media, and the third-most downloaded resource was the fact sheet “Correcting Myths About the COVID-19 Vaccine.” Others in the top 10 included social media videos dispelling myths about home remedies and natural immunity.
In all, of the top 20 most downloaded resources, 10 were social media graphics and two others were social media videos. To see CBOs prioritizing the use of social media in their information campaigns is not surprising when we consider that throughout the pandemic, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have served multiple roles. They have helped to spread critically important public health messages, fueled misinformation about vaccines, and countered the misinformation. Although research is limited, a study of a racially and ethnically diverse participant sample found using social media to be an effective way to counter COVID myths.
CBOs shared public health facts in small “bites” mixed with motivation.
Seven of the top 20 resources shared public health facts, mostly in visual displays containing just a fact or two—small, consumable bites rather than a “full meal.” Examples include social media graphics about how the Omicron variant evolved, COVID-19 vaccinations and breakthrough cases, and vaccines’ effect on new variants.
Five of the top 20 most downloaded resources were more focused on motivation than providing facts or addressing myths. For example, the second-most downloaded resource reminded families that it is not too late to get a flu shot; a Spanish-language video remembering those lost to COVID-19 also made the top 20.
We’ve had promising news of late: Black and Hispanic adults are now at least as likely to have received at least one dose of the vaccine as other populations. There is still great opportunity, however, to prevent additional illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 among BIPOC communities by increasing the percentage of people who have received booster shots. Also, there is still work to be done in reaching the adult caregivers of children ages 5 to 11, a group whose vaccination rate hovers around 25 percent. This work is important. Vaccination decisions for children are almost always made by adult caregivers, and their decisions can be influenced by myths about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Our team looks forward to continuing the fast-paced work of keeping VRH content accurate and current. In addition, we are building out a new section of the VRH that publishes stories from CBO campaigns. This will provide an additional opportunity to reflect on strategies for information campaigns that produce local-level results.
Funding for this effort is made possible through a subaward from the CDC Foundation and is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) financial assistance award totaling $25,660,048 with 100 percent funding from CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.