India needs a two-way communication channel to drive its vaccine rollout

Written by Himani Rathore

Robot wearing a VR set
January 22, 2021 | SPAG

If you’re in India and you pick up your phone to dial someone, you won’t be greeted by Amitabh Bachchan’s voice asking you to mask up anymore. Instead, a lady will tell you to get yourself vaccinated against COVID-19 once your turn comes, without apprehension.

 

Managing Partner & Co-Founder SPAG Asia, Aman Gupta on NDTV discussing vaccine hesitancy

This shift in messaging is only one of the many things the administration is doing to build confidence amongst people in the entire vaccination process.

But… is it working?

Not really!

Possibly everyone is waiting for the Prime Minister get a shot himself on national television to know all is well. That, however, is not the problem. There is a lot of communication that has been put out by the government over the past several weeks. They plan to in fact accelerate this communications campaign by posting on billboards, running advertisements and amplifying their messaging on social media in order to get the point across to the last person.

Then why is it that people, including many health workers, are refusing to get the shot?

There are a few reasons for that.

Our Managing Partner Aman Gupta spoke to Sonal Mehrotra Kapoor on Ndtv latest news about what India needs right now to battle vaccine hesitancy and the crucial role communications plays in building confidence and acceptance towards the vaccine.

Building a two-way communications channel

If we look at the issue of vaccine hesitancy closely, we can see a very clear missing link. There exists right now a one-way communication channel between the people and the government. This channel is overloaded with information from the government. A lot is being said, a lot is being told. We’re being told constantly to go get the vaccine when our turn comes, but people have a lot of questions and there are a lot of apprehensions regarding the vaccine.

This is not new, though. It’s been happening for quite sometime and it is something we have seen go down with other vaccines as well. Thus, what India needs right now is a two-way communications channel where people can ask questions, get their queries answered and have their doubts cleared. Until that happens, there is bound to be hesitancy.

Are health workers trained to communicate?

The health workers and the people engaged in administering the vaccine are the pied pipers here. They lead the way. So, it is crucial that the messaging they spread is accurate, well-informed and easy to understand. It is important that these frontline workers be trained and made to understand every aspect of the vaccine. Once they have faith in it, they will communicate that confidence further.

Using social media and mass media the right way

The use of mass media and social mobilization work wonders in spreading the message quickly, but that is not always a good thing. If we look at the scale of the problem currently and how much time has passed — a lot has happened in too little a time. Everything is happening in overdrive at the moment — the messaging, the vaccination, the campaigning. There is almost an overwhelming amount of information for people to process. We need to give it some time and add more layers to this communications strategy. Only then, will it in time have an impact.

 

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