Vaccine Communication Tips

Talking about vaccines can bring up strong feelings — but with the right strategies, you can help students, faculty, and staff feel confident about getting COVID-19 vaccines.

Build vaccine confidence through clear communication

General health communication best practices are the also best way to approach messaging about vaccines. Follow these guidelines:

  • Be transparent about what we know and don't know. The best way to avoid distracting “U-turns” in health advice is to be open and honest when experts just aren't sure about something. So tell your audiences the whole truth based on the best evidence we have.
  • Normalize changing our behavior as we learn more. Remind your audiences that as doctors and researchers learn more about COVID-19, we’ll learn better ways to protect ourselves and each other. When we know better, we can do better!
  • Be consistent in all your communications. If your campus has more than one department or organization working on COVID-19 communication, make sure everyone is on the same page. If policies outside your control are changing, do your best to keep communications aligned and up to date — and, again, be honest about what you know and what you don't.
  • Use plain, everyday language to describe the vaccine development process and the evidence for vaccine safety. College audiences may appreciate detailed info, but nobody likes unnecessary jargon — so skip terms like “adverse vaccine events” and stick to more familiar language like “side effects.”
  • Encourage engagement and shared decision-making. Communicating about vaccines isn't a one-way street — invite people to ask questions, do their own research using credible sources, and talk with their doctors or college health center staff about their concerns. That way, they'll feel more invested in the process and more confident about getting vaccinated.
  • Tailor your messaging. Different campus populations may have different concerns about COVID-19 vaccines — and it's important to thoughtfully address those concerns in your messaging.
  • Spread the word through trusted messengers. Keep in mind that your audiences may be more receptive to information about vaccines coming from people they trust, like family, friends, and peers on campus. A student ambassador program can be a great way to share trustworthy information about the COVID-19 vaccines. Learn how to start a student ambassador program.