A little more than one year since the coronavirus pandemic began, several highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and are now being widely distributed. However, the spread of misinformation, particularly online and in some parts of the media, threatens to undermine public trust in vaccination and derail national progress.

It is the responsibility of health care practices and medical organizations to share the most up-to-date, relevant and fact-based vaccine information. Health care providers need to be talking and writing about the vaccine in a way that is informative, useful and valuable, and which benefits both individuals and general public health.

Sadly, the spread of misinformation from anti-vax groups and the misinterpretation of admittedly confusing clinical trial data is leading to lack of confidence in COVID-19 vaccination among U.S. citizens spanning a wide range of demographics. 

Medical experts are in a unique position to add credibility to the vaccine discussion and provide assurance to people who might be reluctant to get it. How can you address concerns about efficacy and side effects, while sticking to the facts and also establishing your practice as the go-to source for accurate, reliable health care news?

Kindly dispel vaccine myths

Strike up a calm and nonjudgmental tone when addressing vaccination myths and falsehoods. Conspiracy theories existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be prevalent long after. The best way to educate and influence through content is to connect authentically to people with compassion. 

Acknowledge some of the fears Americans may be having that fuel their reservations about vaccination. Assure them that scientists know what they are doing and potential risks are rare. If you can use data and anecdotal evidence, and genuinely address individual concerns, you have a better chance of reaching and persuading people.

For example, many wonder how these vaccines got approved so quickly and had such a high success rate. Compared to previous vaccine development, some feel the timeline was suspiciously rapid. Offer an insider perspective on vaccine development, and share how a worldwide effort to eradicate COVID-19 — as well as more funding and less red tape than ever before — contributed to the expedited timeline. It’s understandable that the average person would have questions about the process, and you can help it make sense to your audience.

Validate legitimate concerns

As a trusted health care news source, don’t gloss over the negative side effects of vaccines, as it contributes to worries that the public is not getting the whole picture. By sharing a well-rounded assessment that details the benefits and risks of the vaccine, you earn more credibility on this topic and as an industry authority broadly.

Some patients may express that pre-existing conditions preclude them from getting vaccinated. Make sure to acknowledge these exceptions and provide suggestions on how we can keep our most vulnerable populations safe by increasing overall immunity. Vilifying those who worry about the risks of vaccination potentially alienates people who could be chronically ill or may not have a choice in the matter.

Others may express frustration that vaccine access is not equitable, whether due to supply and demand, challenges related to limited transportation and distribution or issues of inequality in race, wealth, geographic location or other demographic. Speak with kindness in validating such legitimate concerns, and offer informational resources and guidance as a helpful solution.

Don’t avoid acknowledging the history of health care and where it has fallen short. Past mistakes and knowing wrongs, such as throat doctors cowing to the tobacco industry’s campaign against scientific information on the dangers of smoking, as well as racist experiments like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of Black men, are dark marks on medicine, which have led people to be justifiably wary of American health care.

But, as time goes on, medical ethics have become more important and we’ve gotten better at treating illness, including contagious viruses like COVID-19. We have never had more scientific knowledge than we do today, and it’s OK that we will have new information tomorrow. Present this as a positive, not a cause for distrust.

Offer guidance

Articles are rapidly circulating on social media, and news sources are sharing timely — if sometimes contradictory — information. Some readers have stumbled across unreliable sources or outdated news and are confused and scared. Many citizens are distrustful of the government and the media right now, and need guidance on what to believe. With great health care content, you can be a part of the solution. Start by explaining how to accurately interpret the data regarding vaccine side effects. Express that the rate of negative reactions is low. Tell readers how some health events that occurred after someone was vaccinated reveal correlation, but not causation. For example, is the rate of heart attacks that took place in participants during a vaccine clinical trial proportional to the rate of heart attacks in the general population during this time window? If so, the vaccine wouldn’t be shown to have increased the risk of heart attacks, even if some people experienced heart attacks, or some other adverse event.

Put professionals in the spotlight

Whether you are quoting dependable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or letting your own health care professionals share expertise about the pandemic, putting a face to health and scientific knowledge can dramatically improve credibility.

Convey the right tone

With fear and uncertainty permeating much of society worldwide, attempt to share updates in a way that encourages reflection and rational thinking. Release important information that quells fear while educating your audience.

Worrying about “doing it the right way” keeps many health care practices from publishing content at all, whether it be blog posts, video updates, infographics and more. Don’t let this stop you from producing timely health care material, but do consult the professionals in content publishing.

Establish yourself as a health care news source

Just as we need to trust medical leaders with our disease information during and after the pandemic, you should entrust your health care content to the publishing experts. A virtual marketing department composed of experienced brand journalists can take your COVID-19 vaccine information and viewpoints and transform it into a compelling, educational and digestible blog post or white paper. It can even help produce a social media campaign to push out daily updates. 

Your staff has to devote the majority of its time to offering health care services, so collaborate with PowerPublish to bring the latest in health care news to the public. Yes, this leads to your audience becoming more well-informed. But publishing timely, well-written content can also connect you to new patients and grow your audience online, establishing your practice as a health care news source that people can trust long after the pandemic.