Every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic has come with new and unique challenges. As the virus has evolved, so too has health care’s response to the issues confronting the public.
When effective COVID-19 immunization became available, the task of distributing vaccines in the region became the most important next step. Now that vaccinations and accompanying booster shots are readily available, access to clear, accurate information has become a vital tool in keeping people as safe as possible while also slowing the spread of the virus.
Those efforts were identified recently by Voices for Vaccines, an organization that gives parents science-based online content and enables them to make healthy, informed decisions regarding their children and their communities.
Vaccine science through stories
As Voices for Vaccines explains on its website: “We know science needs to be understandable to be believable and the most effective way to translate this science is to personalize it. We explain science through stories, testimonials, conversations, and straight answers to hard questions.”
To that end, Voices for Vaccines recognized Sanford Health, along with three other health care systems, for providing easy-to-understand graphics and information about how those who were vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 were much less likely to get seriously ill.
“From the beginning, our marketing and communication efforts had to be huge because of all the misinformation out there and how quickly things change,” said Andrea Polkinghorn, immunization strategy leader for Sanford Health. “I think our team has done a phenomenal job with that.”
Sanford has monitored the impact of its message, paying special attention to clarity. The guidelines for staying safe, especially when coupled with science-based changes in policy, can test both providers and their patients.
Vaccine facts for providers and patients
“We very much had to make sure that we were educating our providers and our staff,” Polkinghorn said. “It can be challenging even for them to keep up with developments. So we’ve tried to bundle it and package it for them in an easily consumable way so that they could be up-to-speed to share with their peers, family members and patients.”
The goal has always been to give people what they need to make informed decisions. Dispelling myths has proven to be a significant part of that assignment. Misinformation remains a persistent obstacle, especially on social media.
“Why does it matter? Because people are still getting sick,” Polkinghorn said. “We have to continue to press that it’s about preventing hospitalization and severe disease and death.”
The message keeps moving forward. The Sanford approach to providing accurate COVID-19 information has involved a multi-pronged effort that incorporates marketing communication, patient experience, patient education and subject matter experts.
“By having those kinds of key players we have really good material that is easily understandable,” Polkinghorn said. “It’s a unique collaboration that we’ve built up, developed and expanded on throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.
- Best COVID-19 treatments, according to doctors
- What we’ve learned about ‘hybrid immunity,’ long COVID
- Digital Health Awards honor Sanford Fit kids website