Behavioral strategies to promote a national COVID-19 vaccine program

National efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine at “warp speed” are beginning to yield a safe and effective vaccine. But this important milestone is only the first step in an equally important challenge: getting a majority of the U.S. public vaccinated.

A person at a desk wearing rubber gloves and a mask puts a dose of medication into a syringe.
A pharmacist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania draws up a COVID-19 vaccine dose. Diluted COVID-19 vaccines can only be kept at room-temperature for six hours before they expire. (Image: Dan Burke)

Authors of a viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association share five strategies and implementation considerations, informed by insights from behavioral science, for a national COVID-19 vaccine promotion program.

“The U.S. needs a national strategy for the promotion of COVID-19 vaccines that unites the urgency and commitment of Operation Warp Speed with innovative behavioral science and social marketing approaches to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and acceptance in diverse populations,” says senior author Alison M. Buttenheim, the Patricia Bleznak Silverstein and the Howard A. Silverstein Term Endowed Professorship in Global Women’s Health at Penn’s School of Nursing.

The recommendations from Buttenheim and co-authors George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University and Kevin Volpp, the Founders President’s Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and Health Care Management at the Wharton School, include:

  • Make the vaccine free and easily accessible.
  • Make access to valued settings conditional on getting vaccinated.
  • Use public endorsements from trusted leaders to increase uptake.
  • Provide priority access to people who sign up to get vaccinated before vaccines are widely available.
  • Transform individual vaccination decisions into a public act.

Read more at Penn Nursing News.