How PSI and Facebook are lifting COVID-19 vaccine uptake
By Brandon Soloski, Senior Manager Strategic Partnerships
Public trust and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines need our attention
There are now at least 10 vaccines in distribution and even more in development or in clinical trial. However, it’s safe to say that we’ve seen a less than smooth roll-out on a global scale. Key barriers to vaccine uptake have emerged due to varying perceptions of risk in many communities, low public trust in information sources, concerns around side effects, a lack of confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, and more. These challenges impede efforts to achieve extensive immunization coverage. PSI is committed to addressing these barriers and is working to counter the myths and misperceptions that stand between consumers and their access to getting their shot (or jab) in a new partnership with Facebook.
Levels of vaccine acceptability vary across countries, but are concerningly low in a variety of settings, including many of the low- and middle-income counties where PSI works. A report from the African CDC, for example, indicated that only 59 percent in the DRC and 65 percent in Senegal would be willing to get the vaccine. In our own research in Mozambique, we found that as of March 2021 only 37 percent of people we surveyed said that they would definitely get the vaccine.
PSI as a trusted source of vaccine information on social media
Concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy contribute directly to vaccine hesitancy; as individuals consider whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they are faced with challenges regarding where to get information about it, what and who to trust, and how to interpret what they see and hear. Misinformation and myths about the vaccine can spread rapidly through social media, and these challenges to public confidence are prone to further negative amplification as they are shared, increasingly competing with fact and reason. Conversely, social media can be used to combat these challenges as a platform for social and behavior change (SBC) interventions that encourage vaccine uptake.
Diverse partnerships to catalyze behavior change
At PSI, we have decades of experience in designing effective SBC campaigns that address misinformation and encourage healthy behaviors. Our partnership with Facebook allows increased access to resources that grant us a wider scope to effectively deliver SBC interventions and bring trusted health information to Facebook users in 27 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
John Cantarella, Vice President, Community and Impact Partnerships, at Facebook, underscores the importance of this partnership and the value that PSI brings to the digital health space: “PSI has been a vital partner in supporting our health partnership programs to expand how global health teams can use Facebook as part of their social behavior change communications work. In this year, when access to accurate health information is more important than ever, global health partners, including PSI, are essential to our ability to increase access to authoritative information in an agile way that resonates with communities globally.”
Together, we can reach millions of Facebook users with SBC messaging that can build consumer confidence in safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and encourage preventative behaviors. Not only will this partnership operate across 30 countries, but it will also leverage content in English, French, and Spanish.
Components of our partnership include:
- A dedicated specialist. PSI has brought on-board an in-house Facebook campaign specialist, Stephen Maina, based at PSI’s Digital Health Innovation Hub in Nairobi. This role works alongside our Digital Health and Monitoring team to train and coordinate PSI’s network of social media staff and SBC experts and colleagues across the globe to deliver campaigns using Facebook’s suite of applications.
- Technical training. We have already kicked off a series of internal training modules which focus on the design of consumer facing material, the placement of targeted ads, and the measurement of ad campaign effectiveness. The training delivers an education in leveraging social media strategies for SBC, advertising tools, content development, A/B testing, audience insights, and campaign metrics.
- Expanded expertise. Across Cambodia, Lesotho and Malawi, PSI has launched COVID-19 vaccine confidence campaigns. And, at the same time, PSI is learning to expand its reach for broader global health campaigns in areas such as malaria, sexual and reproductive health, and water, hygiene and sanitation.
- Measurement. Through this partnerships PSI will continuously monitor how the campaigns reach and engage target audiences. This includes conducting Facebook Brand Lift studies to measure changes in consumer self-reported COVID-19 knowledge, attitudes, and practices, in response to various campaign approaches as well as click-throughs to additional campaign resources.
Collaborative partnerships for pandemic control
PSI is working to counter misinformation and build confidence toward vaccine uptake alongside a coalition of global Facebook partners including WHO, CARE, and Girl Effect. This newly formed coalition has tremendous potential for promoting coordinated adoption of digital health best practices for COVID-19 campaigns.
As we look ahead, we seek partnerships in the digital space where we can further utilize our expertise to serve our consumers with the health information they need to make healthy choices. We welcome opportunities that allow us to channel our expertise in skills-building and pro-bono expertise, approaches to financing that highlight the value of public and private partnerships, data exchange to enhance SBC campaigns, and leveraging new technology to compliment and augment our vaccine hesitancy approaches.
Over the coming year, many individuals in low- and middle-income countries will be faced with the decision to vaccinate. The challenges to building and sustaining public trust in COVID-19 vaccines are significant and urgent. However, building confidence in effective and available COVID-19 vaccines can be achieved through strong partnerships in the digital space. We look to our communities of practice, the public sector, and private sector firms to help us address these challenges together.