In response to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign of the Department of Health, the Health Promotion Unit conducted a series of strategic communication and demand generation for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign for government agencies’ information officers, media practitioners, Human Resource for Health (HRH) team leaders, and hospital and local government unit’s Health Education and Promotion Officers (HEPO) in the provinces of North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City.
The participants were guided on the importance of physical and mental resilience and continued practice of minimum public health standards like hand washing, wearing of face mask and face shield correctly, and physical distancing. The health workers, community volunteers, and other frontline health workers should be able to communicate key messages and respond to concerns regarding the campaign and verify information appropriately. The private sector, civil society organizations, local chief executives, and other key stakeholders should also be engaged to champion the immunization activities through the provision of accurate and timely information and resources for community mobilization.
Filipinos should be made aware of the COVID-19 deployment and implementation plan. That is why communicators must be knowledgeable on the topic they are communicating to their intended audience. This does not only boost our confidence as a speaker to impart knowledge but also allows the person to be more trustworthy and credible to the people.
Communicators must let them understand and feel confident in the government’s approach to rolling out the vaccines by relying on government-initiated platform as the authoritative source of information on COVID-19 vaccine deployment. Everyone should understand the threat of the virus and the need for herd immunity to protect every member of the family and to build trust and demand for the COVID-19 vaccine and routine immunization.
Communicating about vaccines is different than communicating about the disease itself. There is an additional dimension of uncertainty and even a greater need to build trust. Strong and consistent communication between authorities and the public is critical in ensuring confidence in vaccines. Strengthening risk communication strategies and building trust are keys to encouraging vaccine acceptance and demand. The perception of vaccines now is impacted by the experiences of the past including that of the Dengvaxia controversy. At the height of the pandemic, misinformation and disinformation have greatly proliferated in social media spaces.
Vaccine hesitancy is often powered by fear which is a powerful emotion. There is a need to lessen if not eradicate this fear by applying evidence-based interventions that bring understandable, localized information to Filipinos and drive positive healthseeking behavior. The media can also help as an ally in fighting misinformation by sharing accurate and timely information with the public.