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COVID-19 Vaccine Communications: What Patients Want to Know + How You Can Answer Their Questions

Communications challenges lie ahead as states, hospitals, pharmacies and providers begin planning the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Consumers have lots of questions, including:

· How do the vaccines work?

· How will vaccines be distributed?

· What is the difference between the numerous vaccines coming on the market?

· How effective are the vaccines?

· Has the accelerated timeline for development and approval of the vaccines compromised safety?

· Can we resume normal life as soon as we are vaccinated?

· How long does the vaccine’s protection last?

How can you best answer these questions for your communities? Here are some suggestions:

1. Describe the goals and benefits of “Operation Warp Speed.”

Operation Warp Speed is the name the U.S. government has given to its accelerated COVID-19 vaccine development program. Consumers may have heard of Operation Warp Speed, but may not know exactly what it is. When explaining the program, it’s important to emphasize that no steps in the typical vaccine development process were skipped under Operation Warp Speed. However, some steps — such as the clinical trials for safety and efficacy and the ramp-up of manufacturing — were conducted at the same time instead of sequentially.

2. Do a side-by-side comparison of a standard vaccine development timeline vs. the Operation Warp Speed timeline.

The vaccine development process follows a standard set of steps to ensure that vaccines are safe and effective. For the COVID-19 vaccine under Operation Warp Speed, no steps were skipped, but they were accelerated to get a vaccine to market more quickly. Showing this in a side-by-side timeline, with an explanation of the variances, will help alleviate concerns that the process was too quick to be safe.

3. Use a “myths vs. facts” approach to dispel misinformation.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. This is in addition to pre-existing anti-vaxxer sentiment which has made a portion of the public suspicious of all vaccines. To get enough of the public vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, it is necessary to identify and address these misconceptions head-on. A “myth vs. facts” format can address each of these issues effectively.

4. Use an infographic to explain the distribution timeline and sequence.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making recommendations regarding the distribution of the vaccine while still leaving it up to individual states to decide which groups should be prioritized during which phase. An infographic that shows a timeline for each phase along with the phase’s target populations is a simple way to explain the vaccine distribution plan for your area.

5. Create a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine FAQ.

A comprehensive FAQ can cover all types of questions, from how the vaccines work to whether they are safe, to how many types there are, and more. Ask your providers what questions they are fielding to make sure you cover them all.

With so much uncertainty about the vaccines themselves and the timing of vaccine distribution, patient-facing COVID-19 vaccine communications may seem daunting. However, with a little planning, it is possible to anticipate patient questions and provide up-to-date information.

Let us help you craft your COVID-19 vaccine communications.

Contact Michelle at or (203) 858-4923.


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