As details on the latest COVID vaccine contenders flood the news cycle on a daily basis, reports of concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of the vaccine are widespread among many demographics, even including the professional medical community.
As vaccine hesitancy grows agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are stepping up efforts to build vaccine confidence through public relations and communications campaigns.
…officials at the forefront of the COVID response plan to combat vaccine safety concerns and hesitancy are using, what some are calling, questionable psychological techniques.
For example, the WHO, which named “vaccine hesitancy” as the top global public health threat, has hired the PR firm Hill + Knowlton to identify micro-influencers, macro-influencers and “hidden heroes” on social media who could covertly promote the organization’s image as a COVID authority in order to “ensure WHO’s advice and guidance is followed.”
Cass Sunstein, the chairman of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Behavioral Insights, recently wrote in Bloomberg in which he promoted the use of popular celebrities, athletes and actors as tools for vaccine persuasion against those who “lack vaccine confidence.”
“Trusted politicians, athletes or actors — thought to be ‘one of us’ rather than ‘one of them’ — might explicitly endorse vaccination and report that they themselves have gotten the vaccine,” Sunstein wrote.
Then there’s the “Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Communications,” developed by the University of Florida and the United Nations that aims to help governments improve COVID vaccine uptake. The authors of the guide promote the tactic of covertly using trusted community leaders to help with pro-vaccine information.COVID Vaccine Hesitancy Widespread, Even Among Medical Professionals