The UK has so far had success in its vaccination campaign, with 40,107,877 doses administered by health authorities as of Monday 12th April 2021. There have, however, been concerns around the safety and efficacy of the various vaccines on offer, as well as questions amongst certain segments of the population around vaccine ingredients. There are several reasons why people view vaccines with skepticism. The media and individuals are often focused on some of the most severe side effects, such as the reported blood clots with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Other reasons include religious and cultural concerns, such as the vaccine containing pork and therefore not being halal or permissible for many of the Islamic faith. Furthermore, many are unconvinced of vaccine outcomes due to the lack of sufficient evidence on how the vaccine impacts different people. Certain ethnic and racial groups, largely as a result of communal information sharing, remain concerned about these issues, which may also result in panic and the formation of strong opinions either way.
Coming up with innovative and informative ways to eliminate inaccuracy around vaccines and making sure that people’s worries are taken seriously is vital to build trust and achieve success.
Surgo Ventures is a non-profit organization focusing on helping tackle health and societal issues. The organisation is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is working to inform people’s views on the Covid-19 vaccine. The Ventures UK Covid-19 Initiatives are led by Tony Thomas, with more initiatives being led by others in the US and Africa. A recent survey by Surgo Ventures revealed that 18% of adults who have not yet received the vaccine are ‘unsure’ about getting the jabs. One of the reasons cited for hesitation is that the vaccine has not been tested on people of certain ethnicities. In a Press Release issued on Wednesday 14th April 2021, Surgo Ventures explains how it is working to dismantle the barriers that stand between people getting vaccinated. When questioned, 62% of black respondents and 42% of Muslims (with 73% of South Asian descent) stated that they would not take the vaccine immediately when offered. Surgo has divided these ‘unsure’ participants into 4 ‘psychobehavioral’ segments and is working to persuade each one on the benefits of vaccination. Out of these, 39% are ‘Watchful.’ They feel a moderate amount of worry about the vaccine but also believe that it is a personal responsibility to get vaccinated. 29% of the unsure are ‘Worried’ and are fearful about side effects and how effective vaccines would be. They are also likely to believe in conspiracy theories surrounding vaccines. 21% are ‘Disengaged’ and although they believe the vaccine is effective, they do not believe that Covid-19 is a risk, nor do they believe that they have a duty to get vaccinated. The final segment is ‘Closed Off’ and the 11% of respondents in this segment feel that they are not responsible for spreading the virus or for protecting others. In the survey, Surgo Ventures found that they were also most likely to believe conspiracy theories. Dr. Sema K. Sgaier, Co-Founder and CEO of Surgo Ventures explains that paying attention to the beliefs and concerns of those who are ‘unsure’ and working to reassure them is of utmost importance in increasing the uptake of the vaccine. She states that “We need to better understand, respond to and address their real or perceived barriers so that we can build greater vaccine confidence in the UK.” Surgo Venture’s release details how to work with each of the groups, by honing in on the reasons for their responses and coming up with strategies to put their worries at ease and encourage them to take the vaccine.
Driving psychological and behavioural change is no easy feat and Surgo Venture’s survey highlights the importance of tackling people’s perceptions around the vaccine. Erly Stage Studios has partnered with the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to address disinformation and fake news around vaccines and the virus. The teams have been working on a graphic novel that tackles organised campaigns of disinformation that can affect vaccine takeup. The novel is due to be released later this year. Full disclosure, ERLY is a sister company focused on using media such as graphic novels, games, and animation to convey difficult or serious messages to hard-to-reach audiences.
As we push towards vaccinating our populations and remaining protected against new variants of the virus, people must be aware of the facts. Coming up with innovative and informative ways to eliminate inaccuracy around vaccines and making sure that people’s worries are taken seriously is vital to build trust and achieve success.