Monday, October 05, 2020

Local news media could help boost rural covid-19 vaccine compliance by 'telling stories rather than using statistics'
As National Newspaper Week kicks off, a new article notes the critical role local news media can play in making sure more rural residents get a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.

Low compliance for the human papillomavirus vaccine, approved in 2006, prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study how it could cut through misinformation and better persuade Americans to get the shot. That research and the resulting public-information campaign can provide a blueprint for increasing coronavirus vaccine rates, Jillian Kramer reports for Undark.

Health-care providers are the most trusted sources for vaccine information, and positive framing for messages is key, according to research. Xiaoli Nan, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Risk Communication, told Kramer that the most successful strategies rely on "trustworthy messengers, telling stories rather than using statistics."

Rural news media, which locals trust more than nationwide media, can play a role in getting out the word using the same tactics. That could make a difference in rural areas, which have overall lower vaccine compliance rates than metropolitan areas. Rural areas have lower voluntary immunization rates for ailments such as influenza or HPV, partly because of barriers such as language, transportation, and money, Kramer reports.

Such factors may help explain why rural Native Americans, who receive free health care through the Indian Health Service, have a higher flu-shot immunization rate (50% in the 2018-19 flu season) than the general population (45.3% in the same season). Rural Hispanic residents, meanwhile, have some of the lowest flu vaccination rates in the nation, at 31% for the same time period, according to the University of Minnesota's Rural Health Research Center.

A preliminary CDC vaccine rollout plan, published in mid-September, says good communication is "'essential' to 'a successful covid-19 vaccination program,' and notes the agency will 'engage and use a wide range of partners, collaborations, and communication and news media channels,'" Kramer reports.

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