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What are the best communication strategies to support vaccine uptake, and to assist health professionals and agencies to engage with vaccine-resistant groups?

ASSET- Best practice award for general practitioners: The final part of the TELL ME project is the grant-funding project which aims to award individual GPs or groups of GPs who have best included Science in Society (SiS) aspects in order to improve the quality of communication about epidemics and pandemics with their patients and more importantly with the local communities.  

Despite gaps in the evidence base, a lot is known about what impacts vaccination compliance of healthcare professionals and how they can influence patients’ vaccination decisions.

BMJ has been working in partnership with the TELL ME project to research evidence-based communications strategies, which can help a) increase the number of healthcare professionals who get vaccinated against flu and b) the communication strategies healthcare professionals should use when talking to patients about vaccination, particularly during an infectious disease outbreak.

In partnership with TELL ME, BMJ has developed guidance aimed at helping healthcare organisations develop effective communications strategies for dealing with infectious disease outbreaks.

Healthcare professionals have a crucial, influential role in vaccination communications. Some research findings for healthcare organisations to consider:

  1. The reasons HCPs get the flu vaccine can differ between professions.
  2. Ease of access to the vaccine has a major influence on healthcare professionals’ vaccination rates.
  3. Healthcare professionals are the major influencer of patients’ vaccination decision.
  4. Patients who are ideologically opposed to vaccination are very unlikely to change their views; working with other patients is a better use of finite communication resources.
  5. Seasonal flu vaccination predicts pandemic flu vaccination in both healthcare professionals and the public, increase seasonal flu vaccination and you likely increase pandemic flu vaccination.
  6. Top-down, single message approach can create distrust when communicating during a pandemic due to the inherent uncertainty of the situation not being openly discussed.
  7. An open and transparent approach which recognises the uncertainty of pandemic communications and uses pathos in its messages is consistently highlighted as communications best practice in the literature.

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