Last Updated: July 26, 2021

Vaccination Research Topics:

IPR Guide & Resources for Vaccine Communications:

Webinar Playback Available:

How can organizations better understand stakeholder perceptions of vaccinations and how does that influence vaccine confidence? In this IPR webinar, IPR President and CEO Dr. Tina McCorkindale examines critical theories and models that increase vaccine uptake will be addressed as well as the indirect costs of vaccinations, effective message framing strategies, and intervention/incentive strategies for success. Finally, best practices of organizations will be spotlighted.

A Communicator’s Guide to COVID-19 Vaccination

Institute for Public Relations
This in-depth guide outlines the research, theories, models, levers, and research-driven recommendations to help ensure effective communication strategies for organizations worldwide. Along with 17 recommendation-driven key findings, this report features research from more than 100 studies. It also features additional research-based recommendations focused on quick tips for integrating information sources and opinion leaders, learning from theories and models, and communicating about the vaccine, including messaging. 

Overcoming Vaccine Hesitancy: A Tool for Practitioners
Institute for Public Relations & Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida
In this IPR webinar, Ann Christiano and Dr. Jack Berry from the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida will share eight principles and insights from a survey, along with examples of these principles in action.

2020 IPR Disinformation in Society Report
Institute for Public Relations
The second annual study examines and tracks how disinformation — deemed as deliberately misleading or biased information — is spread in U.S. society. The poll of 2,200 Americans conducted March 25-27, 2020 by Morning Consult, explores the prevalence of disinformation in the U.S., the parties most responsible for sharing disinformation, the level of trust the American public has for different information sources, and whose job it is to combat disinformation.

IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center (BIRC)
Institute for Public Relations
The mission of the BIRC is to research the factors that influence attitude and behavioral change to enable effective communication. BIRC can help professionals understand how and why people think and behave the way they do in this ever-changing business environment.

What You Need To Know About Incorporating Behavioral Science Into Public Relations: A Primer
Institute for Public Relations
This primer helps organizations deliver more research-based, theoretical insights driven by behavioral science. Behavioral science aims to understand human behavior and decision-making. It encompasses disciplines examining the psychological underpinnings of behavior, such as cognition, neuroscience, and social psychology.
 

Reasons Behind Vaccine Hesitancy: 

 

 

Vaccine Hesitancy: The Next Challenge in the Fight Against COVID-19
Amiel A. Dror, et al. 
European Journal of Epidemiology
1,941 healthcare workers and members of the general Israeli population took questionnaires. Findings showed that healthcare staff involved in the care of COVID-19 positive patients, and people who consider themselves to be at risk, were more likely to self-report that they would get the COVID-19 vaccination if and when available. In contrast, parents, nurses, and medical workers not caring for COVID-19 positive patients expressed higher levels of vaccine hesitancy. Participants from groups with higher vaccine hesitancy expressed concerns regarding the safety of a rapidly-developed vaccine.

Mistrust in Biomedical Research and Vaccine Hesitancy: The Forefront Challenge in the Battle Against COVID-19 in Italy
Lorenzo Palamenghi, Serena Barello, Stefania Boccia, & Guendalina Graffigna
European Journal of Epidemiology
Two waves of an online survey were conducted with 968 Italian citizens in the first wave and 1,004 Italian citizens in the second survey. A key finding indicates that willingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine is correlated with trust in scientific research and general attitude toward vaccines’ efficacy.

U.S. Public Now Divided Over Whether to Get COVID-19 Vaccine
Alec Tyson, Courtney Johnson, & Cary Funk – 
Pew Research Center
An online survey of 10,093 people was conducted from September 8-13, 2020. Findings show that 77% of Americans thought it was very or somewhat likely a “COVID-19 vaccine will be approved in the United States before its safety and effectiveness are fully understood.” 78% of Americans said their greater concern is that the vaccine approval process will “move too fast, without fully establishing safety and effectiveness.” Of the Americans who said they would not get a COVID-19 vaccine, 76% say concern about side effects is a major reason why they would definitely or probably not get it.

Intent to Get COVID-19 Vaccine Rises as Confidence in Research and Development Process Increases
Pew Research Center

An panel of 12,648 U.S. adults was conducted November 18-29, 2020. Findings show that 60% of Americans would “definitely” or “probably” get a vaccine for COVID-19 if one were available today, up from 51% who said the same in September 2020. Another finding show 75% of Americans have a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of confidence in the development process, compared with 65% who said this in September.

Vaccine Hesitancy: An Overview
Eve Dube, et al. 
Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics
Scientific studies have demonstrated that the news circulation of vaccine controversies influenced vaccine uptake (Smith, Yarwood, Salisbury, 2007; Mason & Donnelly, 2000). Anti-vaccination content on the Internet has also contributed to broader and faster dissemination of rumors, myths, and inaccurate beliefs regarding vaccines that have had a negative impact on vaccine uptake (Kata, 2012; Zimmerman et al., 2005; Betsch et al., 2012). Additionally, due to the success of vaccines, vaccine-preventable diseases are becoming less visible and often the risks or alleged risks of a vaccine are more highlighted than the risk of the disease itself. 

The Factors that Promote Vaccine Hesitancy, Rejection, or Delay in Parents
Umair Majid & Mobeen Ahmad
Qualitative Health Research 
This interpretive review of 34 qualitative studies found seven main factors that bolster vaccine hesitancy, rejection, and delay: previous experiences; “natural” and “organic” living; perceptions of other parents; experiences interacting with health care providers; information sources, challenges, and preferences; distrust in health system players; and mandatory vaccine policies.

Vaccine Hesitancy and Concerns About Vaccine Safety and Effectiveness in Shanghai, China
Abram L. Wagner, et al. 
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Parents of children 18 years or younger completed a questionnaire. Researchers sampled parents from pediatric immunization clinics in all districts of Shanghai except Chongming. The residency of the participants (Shanghai local or a recent migrant or non-local) was taken into account. A majority of parents expressed concerns about vaccine side effects (73%), vaccine safety (63%), and vaccine effectiveness (52%). Compared with locals, rural non-locals were more concerned about vaccine side effects, vaccine safety, and vaccine effectiveness, suggesting that differences in vaccine hesitancy by residency could lead to geographical and sociodemographic disparities in vaccination coverage.  

Vaccine Hesitancy: Definition, Scope, and Determinants
Noni E. MacDonald
Vaccine
This article defines vaccine hesitancy as “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite the availability of vaccination services.” Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context-specific, as it varies across time, place, and vaccine. Findings suggest that the three determinants of vaccine hesitancy are complacency, convenience, and confidence.

Rapid Review: Vaccine Hesitancy and Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccination
T. Hrynick, S. Ripoll, & M. Schmidt-Sane
Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform
This brief outlines several factors that play a role in vaccine hesitancy including misinformation, individual and group influences, and contextual influences such as political economy and trust. The brief also outlines factors of vaccine hesitancy that are specific to COVID-19, such as the expedited development and novelty of COVID-19 vaccines, information and communication environments, and the politicization of COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment.

Mapping Global Trends in Vaccine Confidence and Investigating Barriers to Vaccine Uptake: A Large-Scale Retrospective Temporal Modelling Study
Alexandre de Figueiredo, Clarissa Simas, Emilie Karafillakis, Pauline Paterson
The Lancet
This study mapped vaccine confidence across 149 countries between 2015 and 2019. Findings suggest that confidence in the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines fell in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Korea during this time. However, confidence in vaccines improved between 2018 and 2019 in some EU member states including Finland, France, Ireland, and Italy. Confidence in the importance of vaccines (rather than their safety or effectiveness) had the strongest association with vaccine uptake.

Applying Lessons from Vaccine Hesitancy to Address Birth Dose Vitamin K Refusal
Shetal I. Shah, Heather L. Brumberg, Edmund F. La Gamma
Semin Perinatol
Parental refusal of a Vitamin K shot at birth is an emerging public health issue resulting in increased rates of intracranial bleeding. This study examines the prevalence of Vitamin K refusal, discusses the prevalence of misinformation on social media as a contributor to refusal, and explores how changes in healthcare practices may influence physician mistrust. Results and suggested strategies to combat misinformation may be applicable to vaccine hesitancy as well.

Understanding Vaccine Acceptance and Demand – and Ways to Increase Them
Katrine Bach Habersaat & Cath Jackson
Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz
This paper discusses various determinants for vaccination behaviors and how they can be used to increase vaccination uptake. Individual determinants for vaccination behaviors include risk perceptions, (dis)trust, and perceived constraints. Context determinants include social norms, socioeconomic status, and education level, and the way health systems are designed, operated, and financed. The World Health Organization recommended a theoretical model for understanding vaccination behaviors as detailed herein.  

Misinformation/Disinformation:

 

 

Under the Surface: COVID-19 Vaccine Narratives, Misinformation, and Data Deficits on Social Media
Rory Smith, Seb Cubbon, and Claire Wardle
First Draft News
This executive summary discusses the complexity of the vaccine information ecosystem, which includes many different narratives leading to uncertainty, misinformation, and “data deficits.”

Health Disinformation and Social Media
David Robert Grimes
EMBO Reports 
This report discusses the importance of “information hygiene” in mitigating conspiracy theories and infodemics related to COVID-19.

Disinformation, Misinformation, and Inequality-Driven Mistrust in the Time of COVID-19: Lessons Unlearned from AIDS Denialism
Jessica Jaiswal, Caleb LoSchiavo, & David Perlman
AIDS and Behavior
This essay transfers the lessons learned during the AIDS epidemic to COVID-19 and how understanding the etiologies of disinformation, misinformation, and medical mistrust must be an important component of the public health response. Additionally, the researchers emphasize the importance of this in regard to the pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color. 

Systematic Literature Review on the Spread of Health-Related Misinformation on Social Media
Yuxi Wang, Martin McKee, Aleksandra Torbica, & David Stuckler
Social Science & Medicine
This paper conducted a systematic review of the nature and potential drivers of health-related misinformation. Findings indicate a high prevalence and popularity of misinformation on social media. 

Malicious Actors on Twitter: A Guide for Public Health Researchers
Amelia M. Jamison, David A. Broniatowski, & Sandra Crouse Quinn
AJPH
This paper discusses the impact of bots sharing misinformation on social media. While it may not be easy to stop their influence, this report argues that public health researchers recognize potential harms and drive bot- and troll-driven messages.

A Postmodern Pandora’s Box: Anti-Vaccination Misinformation on the Internet
Anna Kata
Vaccine
This paper builds analyzes the arguments proffered on anti-vaccination websites, determining the extent of misinformation present, and examining discourses used to support vaccine objections. Arguments around the themes of safety and effectiveness, alternative medicine, civil liberties, conspiracy theories, and morality were found on the majority of websites analyzed; misinformation was also prevalent.

Cambridge Game “Pre-Bunks” COVID-19 Conspiracies as Part of the UK Government’s Fight Against Fake News
Fred Lewsey
University of Cambridge
Go Viral! Is a game developed by the University of Cambridge and the UK Government to show players the techniques and motivations behind the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, thus inoculating them against the influence of misinformation. The game is built on research from Cambridge psychologists which found that teaching people the techniques used to spread fake news on social media increases their ability to identify and disregard misinformation in the future.

Combating the Disinfodemic Part One: Deciphering COVID-19 Disinformation
UNESCO
UNESCO developed a policy brief detailing main themes and dominant forms of COVID-19 disinformation based on research that is currently being conducted by the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission. The four dominant forms of COVID-19 disinformation are:
1.     Emotive narrative constructs and memes
2.     Fabricated websites and authoritative identities
3.     Fraudulently altered, fabricated, or decontextualized images and videos
4.     Disinformation infiltrators and orchestrated campaigns
The brief also explains nine main themes that are present in COVID-19 disinformation, such as false and misleading statistics, discrediting journalists and credible news outlets, and politicization, among others.

Combating the Disinfodemic Part Two: Dissecting Responses to COVID-19 Disinformation
UNESCO
This policy brief assesses the responses used to combat the prolific spread of COVID-19 disinformation. Four main types of responses to COVID-19 disinformation are:
1.     Responses that focus on identifying COVID-19 disinformation.
—- These responses are concerned with monitoring fast-spreading information, checking its correctness, identifying who published it and why.
2.     Responses governing the production and distribution of COVID-19 disinformation.
—- These responses are generally aimed at the production and transmission of disinformation. Interventions in this category range from steps that criminalize COVID-19 disinformation, to increasing the supply of corrections to health-related falsehoods, and less commonly, support for independent media.
3.     Responses within the production and distribution of COVID-19 disinformation.
—- Most of these responses relate to the curation of content, which impacts the presence and prominence of information versus disinformation.
4.     Responses aimed at supporting the target audiences of COVID-19 disinformation campaigns. 
—- These responses gather together the interventions that seek to directly address the targets and receivers of disinformation, including online communities, the news media, and their audiences.

Help Stop the Spread of Disinformation: A Guide and 10-Point Checklist to Help People Think Before They Link
Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR
Institute for Public Relations
The IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center offers 10 ways to identify disinformation including a checklist to help people “think before they link.”

Vaccine Misinformation Management Guide
UNICEF, The Public Good Projects, First Draft, Yale Institute for Global Health
UNICEF and partners created this guide to help organizations develop action plans to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation and increase vaccine confidence and acceptance. The study found that anti-vaccine messages are “stickier” (i.e., grab attention and stick in the memory) than pro-vaccine messages. Five tips are provided to make pro-vaccine content “stickier” than misinformation:
1.   Capture attention. Use visuals, elicit an emotional reaction (but beware of fear appeals, which may backfire), and personalize content.
2.   Easy = True. Information that is easier to process and more familiar is more likely to stick. Provide clear, straightforward content that is easy to understand and remember – repetition helps, too.
3.   Be credible. The information needs to be credible (peer-reviewed scientific research), relevant to the target audience, and the source needs to be trustworthy.
4.    Motivate. Consider communicating about vaccinations according to the desirable outcome, not the act itself. Using social norms (e.g., the majority of people adopt a certain behavior) and self-efficacy (give people a way of coping with a threat) also help.
5.    Tell stories. Use narratives to engage your audience – people understand the world through stories as much as facts.

Vaccine Communication Strategies:

 

 

Four Ways Companies Can Effectively Communicate with their Employees about the COVID-19 Vaccine
Rita Men, Ph.D., APR
IPR Organizational Communication Research Center
Many employers are wondering how to best communicate about the COVID-19 vaccine with employees. This blog by Dr. Rita Men details four strategic tips for employers, including what they should say, who they should involve, and how to deliver the information. 

The Marketer’s Guide to Taking the Vaccine Viral
Pulse Point
To shed light on this historic moment in time, PulsePoint interviewed founders, executives, physicians, and clinicians across the healthcare sector. Specifically, we wanted to understand their current views on COVID-19 and the role that we each play—and in particular the health marketer—in promoting the vaccine. This report compiles the perspectives of these industry leading experts, sharing their insights into how we can build vaccine confidence and drive successful immunization efforts using data, trust, personalized messaging, and more. Through the analysis of these interviews, we’ve identified five key themes

The Words that Actually Persuade People on the Pandemic
Sara Fischer
Axios
A recent poll finds that certain vocabulary is more effective at getting the public to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. The polling suggests Republicans tend to take COVID-19 less seriously, in part because the words used to describe safety measures feel invasive of their constitutional rights. Findings also show that the language used to talk about the virus is often too impersonal to be effective.

Rethinking Vaccine Communications
Mike Kuczkowski 
Orangefiery
This blog by IPR Trustee Mike Kuczkowski details several factors underlying COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and how a new communication approach could help encourage COVID-19 vaccination. The suggested approach includes communication strategies rooted in education and engagement with a specific breakdown for different industries and roles.

A Jab for Elvis Helped America Beat Polio. Now Doctors Have Recruited Him Again…
Robin McKie
The Guardian
This article reflects on campaigns used to combat polio vaccination hesitancy among teens in the 1950s. Elvis agreed to get his polio shot on air during the Ed Sullivan Show in an effort to persuade teens to get vaccinated – the effort worked, but not overwhelmingly. A grassroots organization called Teens Against Polio actually made a bigger difference in convincing other teens to get vaccinated. The takeaway is that hard-to-influence groups can still be reached by tapping into new forms of communication.

The Public’s Role in COVID-19 Vaccination: Planning Recommendations Informed by Design Thinking and the Social, Behavioral, and Communication Sciences 
Monica Schoch-Spana, Emily K. Brunson, and colleagues 
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security & Texas State Anthropology
This report examines the implications of social and behavioral science on the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. Several recommendations for US policymakers and communicators are included in the report, such as:
1. Understand and inform public expectations about vaccine benefits, risks, and supply.
2. Earn the public’s confidence that vaccine allocation and availability are evenhanded.
3. Make vaccination available in safe, familiar, and convenient places.
4. Communicate in meaningful, relevant, and personal terms, crowding out misinformation.
5. Establish independent representative bodies to instill public ownership of the vaccination program.

The Behavior Change Wheel: A New Method for Characterizing and Designing Behavior Change Interventions
Susan Michie, Maartje M. van Stralen, & Robert West
Implementation Science
This systematic review evaluated existing behavior change intervention frameworks to develop a new and improved framework for public health interventions. A new “Behavior Change Wheel” was developed using three essential conditions of capability, opportunity, and motivation as the “hub” of the wheel. Behavior change techniques serving five intervention functions (education, persuasion, incentivization, training, and enablement) make up the rest of the proposed framework. Application of these intervention functions and the proposed framework may be helpful to communicators in encouraging COVID-19 vaccination.

Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Communications
The Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, Purpose, and The United Nations Verified Initiative
This guide, prepared by the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, outlines a set of research-backed principles for sharing vaccine information that can help increase trust, acceptance, and demand for vaccination. Key principles include, but are not limited to:
· Make content concrete, supply a narrative, and provide value.
· Recognize that communities have different relationships with vaccination.
· Evoke the right emotions.
Watch the Webinar: Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Communications

Key Guidelines in Developing a Pre-Emptive COVID-19 Vaccination Uptake Promotion Strategy
Jeff French, Sameer Deshpande, William Evans, Rafael Obregon
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
This paper proposes short-term guidelines to assist those responsible for promoting COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Researchers suggest that leaders formulate effective, locally relevant strategies using key guidelines including behavior change planning, audience targeting/segmentation, competition and barrier analysis, and more.

Strategies to Increase Vaccine Acceptance and Uptake: From Behavioral Insights to Context-Specific, Culturally-Appropriate, Evidence-Based Communications, and Interventions
Angus Thomson & Gaelle Vallee-Tourangeau
Vaccine
A literature review found several implications for designing effective communication and intervention strategies to increase vaccine acceptance and uptake. The four key implications outlined in this report include:
1. Communicating your reasons are not enough: begin by understanding your target audience.
2. Target your communications to the needs of your audience.
3. Listen to and engage healthcare professionals in your messaging.
4. Design culturally targeted interventions to improve access to vaccines.

General Resources:

 

 

Do Brands Have a Role in Encouraging the COVID-19 Vaccine?
The Harris Poll & Adweek
A survey of 1,989 Americans was conducted in March 2021 to evaluate whether or not brands should be encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations. Findings revealed that 60% of respondents thought brands have an “obligation” to encourage people to get vaccinated, and 70% thought brand rewards like Krispy Kreme’s could encourage more vaccinations.

Consumers Want the Facts Regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine
SmithGeiger Group
Interviews of 3,046 U.S. adults were conducted in December 2020 to explore the factors that impact Americans’ decisions on whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Findings showed that a majority of respondents trusted information from their own doctor or nurse more than other sources, among other key findings.

Business Roundtable “Move the Needle” Campaign
Business Roundtable launched a campaign called “Move the Needle” to support COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The campaign also encourages continued practice of safety measures. 

The Vaccine Confidence Project
Based in the U.K., The Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) monitors public confidence in immunization programs, determines the risk level of public concerns in the implementation of vaccine programs, and provides analysis and guidance for sustained public confidence in vaccines. The VCP has several current research initiatives underway to evaluate current attitudes surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.K.  The project website also houses current resources and the latest news for vaccines and COVID-19.

Determinants of COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance in the U.S.
Amyn A. Malik, SarahAnn M. McFadden, Jad Elharake, Saad B. Omer
EClinicalMedicine
An online survey of 672 U.S. adults found notable demographic and geographic disparities in vaccine acceptance. Influenza and COVID-19 vaccine uptake were studied. Comparing different demographic groups, unemployed participants reported lower influenza and COVID-19 vaccine acceptance compared to those employed and retired, and Black respondents reported lower uptake for both vaccines than all other racial groups studied.   

Social Determinants of Health Inequalities
Michael Marmot
Lancet
This paper details the social factors at the root of inequalities in health. The researcher argues that social determinants are relevant to communicable and non-communicable diseases, thus health status should be a concern for policymakers in every sector, not solely those in health policy.

 IPR Further Resources: 

 

 
COVID-19 Resource Center For PR Professionals
IPR has compiled a list of resources beneficial for public relations and communication professionals to better understand and prepare strategies for COVID-19.
 
10 Ways To Combat Misinformation: A Behavioral Insights Approach
Misinformation, the unintentional dissemination of false, incorrect, or erroneous information, can lead people to hold inaccurate beliefs and make misguided decisions. To help fight against misinformation, the IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center has published this guide.
 
10 Ways to Identify Disinformation – A Guide and Checklist
How can we stop the spread of disinformation? One way is to take additional steps to find out more about the information or articles or posts we may share with others via word-of-mouth or through technology. Advancements in technology have made it difficult for people to discern real posts, sites, or videos from fake ones. To help, IPR has created this guide to help people think before they link.
 
Why Debunking Myths About Vaccines Hasn’t Convinced Dubious Parents 
Chris Graves
This blog post by Christopher Graves leverages the day-to-day challenges faced by internal and external communicators and what can be learned from the vaccine wars.
 
IPR Research Letter
This letter is a weekly digest connecting you to noteworthy actionable academic and applied research in public relations, corporate communication, and beyond. We send out a new edition every Wednesday to keep you updated on the latest research in the PR industry.

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