Communicating with parents in advance about the importance of vaccinating their children for COVID-19 is an important task for decision makers.
Parents bring their own backgrounds and experiences, as well as their concern for their children, to their decisions about vaccinating their children against COVID-19. Parents are currently grappling with many decisions about COVID-19 risks and mitigation measures in a complex communication environment often awash with misinformation.
The strategies below can help communicators work with parents who are hesitant to get their children vaccinated:
|Emphasize safety and efficacy||
To alleviate parents’ concerns, emphasize the rigorous clinical process of safety, efficacy, and continued monitoring of the approved vaccines that are available for children. Developing communications that include specific facts about side effects, such as comparisons of the frequencies of adverse consequences of vaccines in comparison with the adverse consequences of contracting COVID-19, and presented in a way that is easy to understand, such as using graphics or analogies, could help to address these concerns.
For parents with children under 12, safety concerns may be heightened because parents may perceive younger children as more vulnerable. Engaging parents of these younger children now, even before the vaccines for these age groups are authorized, could be critical for increasing vaccine confidence for parents of children in this age group. The focus of these conversations could be an overall description of the regulatory process, the rigor of clinical trials, the lower vaccine dose in the pediatric formulation, and a reasonable extrapolation of the data for adolescents.
|Encourage parent-provider communication and primary care provider recommendations||
Most children, especially young children, visit primary care providers on a regular basis. These health care providers are a highly trusted group. Messages from primary care providers about vaccines’ safety and efficacy may be important for parents.
To support health care providers in these efforts, local, state, and national decision makers could provide message templates and other resources to primary care providers and their professional organizations. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment, for example, has developed a manual for primary care physicians on creating and sending patients mass emails and text messages encouraging vaccination.
|Leverage social networks to influence parents’ vaccination decisions||
Parents are influenced by their broad trusted social network connections, including family members, friends, coworkers, social media networks, various media, and church members. Targeted communication to these larger social networks can help encourage parents to vaccinate their children.
These rapid expert consultations were produced by SEAN (supported by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) and the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats (supported by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Science and Technology Policy).
Read the guidance online at https://www.nap.edu/resource/26068/interactive.
Are you a policy maker? Do you have a question you need answered? SEAN will consider the most pressing questions and engage the nation’s experts to focus on your challenges. Contact us at SEAN@nas.edu or 202-334-3440.
SEAN is a network of experts in the social, behavioral, and economic sciences poised to assist decision makers at all levels as they respond to COVID-19. The network appreciates any and all feedback on its work. Please send comments to SEAN@nas.edu.