Now is the time for local governments to overcome the trust gap by combatting Covid-19 vaccination misinformation in their communities
The largest immunization campaign in US history is currently underway and local governments are on the frontlines of getting Americans vaccinated. As cities and counties rise to the challenge and begin implementing and making sense of state policy, administering vaccines, and ensuring marginalized communities have equal access – there’s one barrier that few predicted. Americans are confused, misinformation is rampant, and skepticism towards the vaccine is on the rise. For many – particularly vulnerable populations and marginalized communities – there is also an enormous trust gap that must be overcome. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. government infectious-disease specialist, put it simply, that to defeat Covid, “we’ve got to convince people to take the vaccine.”
It’s quickly become clear that the biggest barrier to local government vaccination efforts is overcoming misinformation.
At Zencity, we’ve been working hard to support local governments as they champion their communities through the chaos of 2020. In the context of vaccines, we’re doing this in a few critical ways:
- We dug into the data to understand what residents are concerned with and what’s driving misinformation.
- We hosted an informational webinar alongside experts from NACo and Cameron County, Texas, providing explicit tips from our data and from both our and NACo’s work in the field.
- We put together a guide with actionable tips for local government leaders to increase public trust in their Covid vaccine plans.
- Finally, we’ve put together a kit of brand new products and services dedicated to supporting local governments in their vaccination efforts
All of these tools focus on one critical task: reining in the conversation and aligning communication strategies across agencies and organizations. The reason we chose this focus is written in the data.
Americans are skeptical of the Covid-19 vaccine because the information they’re receiving is being driven by non-government and non-official sources. When it comes down to it, trends of rising skepticism and resistance to the vaccines really aren’t surprising. While cities and counties have been in a frenzy making sense of state policy and mapping out massive vaccination plans, the media has been hard at work. Zencity’s data has shown that just since October, the media has driven a 157% increase in Covid-vaccine-related discourse. And of course – much of this discourse centers around speculation – speculation about who will be vaccinated, whether vaccines will be mandatory, the side effects of the vaccines – and a whole lotta misinformation. In fact, news coverage is responsible for over 50% of the noise on social media about vaccines, while official local government channels are only initiating 15% of the conversation.
But, this also means there is a tremendous opportunity for local governments to drive the conversation forward and to shape their residents’ understanding of vaccination processes.
In fact, our data shows that when governments are more vocal about vaccine communications, their communities tend to have more positive sentiment. In other words, it’s not that the media is more believable than local authorities – they’re just louder. Cities and counties must step up today and rein in the conversation.
At Zencity, we strongly believe this is part of the critical path of successful vaccine administration across the United States and our data can show you exactly why.
The challenges of facilitating and encouraging communities to get vaccinated is not only the largest logistical public health effort managed by local government in our lifetimes; it is also perhaps the largest communications challenge that’s been faced in recent times. Ultimately, like most of the Covid response thus far getting our communities to cooperate and combating misinformation is key.
Local government organizations have the power to shift the conversation – and must do so – for vaccine efforts to succeed. Through cross-agency alignment and strategic messaging and communications, you can take control of the narrative in your community.
In an effort to support local governments as they tackle the biggest immunization campaign in US history, we created a complete bundle of services and products dedicated to supporting your vaccine efforts – and eligible for support funding.