National Immunization Awareness Week is an annual event held in the last week of April to highlight and recognize the importance of immunization and coincides with World Immunization Week. As we battle a third wave of the pandemic across the country, now more than ever, it is important to communicate and educate populations on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. This is particularly challenging in a context where new information (and misinformation) about COVID-19 vaccines is emerging daily. This can exacerbate vaccine hesitancy or confidence among the public, which may interfere with the achievement of vaccination targets. To reach herd immunity, which would allow for our society to gradually re-open, 60-80% of the population must be vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy is universal across countries and can be due to fear of side effects, safety, effectiveness, perceived political interference, and misinformation. Misinformation (sometimes referred to as "fake news") is not a new phenomenon, and older adults are particularly vulnerable to it. A study conducted in the United States revealed that Internet users over the age of 65 tend to relay more false information on social networks than younger users. It is important to fact check information you are receiving and examine the credibility of the source(s) when reading information that can influence your decision-making.
As the pandemic evolves, communication plans may be adapted to respond to new events (for example, new variants, new data, and evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines against new variants, or possible cases of adverse events following vaccination). Read through our helpful resources below to learn more about vaccination roll-out and stay tuned for the fourth post in our series which will examine the challenges of administering COVID-19 vaccines in ways that optimize timely uptake.