There is no “one-size-fit-all” solution to vaccine hesitancy, and nuanced approaches are key to addressing health inequities and promoting acceptance of vaccines. These 9 best practices for communications strategies can be used to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence.


Meet People Where They Are, and Don’t Try to Persuade Everyone Develop different messages for those who are willing and need information and for those who are hesitant but open to learning more, but do not devote resources to trying to persuade those who are completely opposed to vaccination. Instead, use empathy when interacting with those who may be vaccine hesitant or skeptical, including through techniques such as motivational interviewing between providers and patients. Use language like “I understand that you might have questions about the vaccine, and I'm here to answer them as best I can.”


Avoid Repeating False Claims Repeating false claims and misinformation risks amplifying and strengthening them. In situations in which addressing misinformation is unavoidable, warn recipients before confronting them with misinformation (e.g., “the following claim is misleading…”) and emphasize the facts over the misinformation. Practitioners may also use a pivot approach to divert those who are vaccine skeptical to concerns about the risk of disease.


Tailor Message to Specific Audiences To be effective, COVID-19 vaccine communication needs to reflect an understanding of the populations and individuals one is trying to reach, including their concerns and motivations and who they trust. Consider the information needs of diverse audiences. If the information provided is not relevant or responsive to audiences’ needs, people will ignore the information.


Adapt Messaging as Circumstances Change What influences people’s decisions now is likely to shift as vaccine distribution moves forward, reflecting both individual experiences, months of media coverage, and changes in the pandemic’s trajectory and the response to it. Fund and use rapid research methodologies to identify relevant priorities, specific message formats, trusted messengers, and appropriate message frequency.


Respond to Adverse Events in a Transparent, Timely Manner Although serious adverse reactions to COVID-19 are exceedingly rare, they often receive disproportionate attention in the news and on social media. It is important to communicate information about adverse events in a timely manner and be continually transparent about what is known, what is unknown, and what should be done. It is important to acknowledge that post-vaccination surveillance is crucial to the identification of rare outcomes that are potentially vaccine related. This approach will help mitigate concerns about safety, side effects, and adverse events moving forward.


Identify Trusted Messengers to Deliver Messages Trust in the person or institution that delivers messages about the COVID-19 vaccine will boost credibility, but different groups may have different trusted messengers and preferred mediums and channels. Identify trust gaps in the community and identify trusted sources to carry public health messages to fill these gaps.


Emphasize Support for Vaccinations Rather Than Focusing on Naysayers Research shows that people look to their peers for cues about how to behave. Making vaccine uptake visible will encourage vaccine acceptance as a social norm. Emphasize increasing support for vaccines as uptake increases, initiating a virtuous cycle. Vaccine distribution sites could provide “I got vaccinated” stickers, or encourage people to text their friends and family or post on social media that they received the vaccine.


Leverage Trusted Vaccine Endorsers Use trusted voices to endorse vaccination. Partnering people who have strong popular or community relationships with experts, and adapting messages as needed, can be an effective strategy. Examples of this approach include bringing barbers and stylists together with local health care providers to talk about the vaccine, or celebrities hosting health experts for discussions on vaccination on their social media platforms.


Pay Attention to Delivery Details Trust in a vaccination program may be undermined if the user experience of enrolling and getting vaccinated is poor. Work to make the experience of getting vaccinated feel efficient, simple, and pleasant.


Learn More

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

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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