Communication and vaccine acceptance
Communication approaches should be outlined in a systematic communications plan, developed with inputs from a technical committee for communications and vaccine hesitancy, and should be informed by a study of public knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and practices (KABP).
Comprehensive influenza vaccination communications activities should be included in the annual EPI plan and should be part of an existing national communications strategy to sustain political support and public trust. The strategy should identify and address target audiences at national, regional and local levels, appealing to physicians, health-care staff (particularly those with limited immunization experience), opinion leaders, communities, pregnant women and their families, medical and nursing associations, women’s rights and gender equity advocates, civil society organizations, government officials, parliamentarians, and the media. The development of messaging that is tailored and targeted to each main audience group will also be relevant.
The key components of a communications plan to support influenza vaccination for pregnant women include: communication objectives, target audiences, summary findings of a KABP (if completed), key messages tailored to each target audience, approaches/channels for information dissemination and engagement, timing of communication activities, and methods for measuring and evaluating the communication activities Toolbox).
Tailoring Immunization Programmes for Seasonal Influenza (TIP FLU). A guide for increasing health care workers’ uptake of seasonal influenza vaccination. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe: 2015.
Tailoring Immunization Programmes for Seasonal Influenza (TIP FLU). Understanding health care workers’ uptake of seasonal influenza vaccination in Montenegro: a case study for policy-makers and programme managers. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe: 2015.
Special Issue on Vaccine Hesitancy. Vaccine 2015; 33(34):4155–4156.
Vaccine safety events: managing the communications response. A guide for Ministry of Health EPI managers and health promotion units. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe; 2013.
Coordination between programmes is important to ensure proper technical content of the messaging, to choose appropriate channels for dissemination and to achieve shared endorsement of the communications strategy.
A multidisciplinary technical committee for communications may best inform the development of such a communications plan. The group should include technical experts (maternal and child health, influenza immunization) as well as communication and social mobilization experts. Partner organizations (e.g. WHO, UNICEF), civil society representatives, different sectors of societies, pregnant women, their families, communities, women’s associations, religious groups and health-care workers should be able to provide inputs to adapt communications to local contexts. A KABP study may help to identify misperceptions of the severity of influenza disease in pregnant women, gaps in public knowledge about the vaccine, and attitudes and acceptance issues regarding the vaccine . The KABP will be essential to informing parts of the communications plan, such as selection of channels for information dissemination, as well as message development for target audiences.
Apart from the development and dissemination of communications materials (e.g. through advertisements, posters, television, radio and social media), champions may be identified at all levels to support maternal influenza vaccination. Such champions may include opinion leaders, or persons of public authority (academics, community leaders, civil society and religious leaders, respected celebrities). Such champions may be trained as spokespeople for the programme – or for immunization in general – and can be involved in media relations, events and high-level meetings. Champions should be carefully identified to ensure that they relate well to their corresponding target audiences.
Workshops or briefings with journalists or other critical stakeholder groups (e.g. medical associations, parents’ groups) should be organized if possible. Such workshops may be an opportunity to inform about, consult on and generate buy-in for the new programme and immunization activities, especially with influential groups. Workshops can be a means for the Ministry of Health to share information proactively about the introduction of the influenza vaccine and explain the concept of protecting both pregnant women and, through them, their infants. During the implementation of maternal influenza vaccination efforts, the media and key stakeholders should be regularly informed of progress and can help establish the vaccine as a routine intervention in the country.
A KABP study may help to identify which of the following? Mark all that are true.
|A. Misperceptions of the severity of influenza disease in pregnant women.|
|B. Gaps in public knowledge about the vaccine.|
|C. Vaccine safety problems that did not arise in clinical trials.|
|D. Attitudes and acceptance issues regarding the vaccine.|
Answers A, B and D are correct.