Ten Adams

How to Overcome COVID Vaccine Hesitancy in Your Community

June 29, 2021 | Strategy
Person Getting Vaccine

As we move through 2021, communication needs surrounding COVID continue to shift. More than a year ago, healthcare marketers worked overtime to find reliable and trustworthy information about the coronavirus. They pushed it out at lightning-fast speed so the community knew the basics of symptoms, testing and how to protect themselves and others. 
And now, marketing teams in hospitals and public health organizations are actively trying to convince people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and help us reach herd immunity. Whew! That’s a lot of redirecting. No wonder our brains are tired! 

To help you identify the people not getting vaccinated, why they are hesitant and how to spur them into action, we’ve summarized the latest research on the topic into actionable steps.   

Check out these five types of personas choosing or not choosing to get vaccinated, developed by Surgo Ventures, using data and methods from the nonpartisan and objective research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. This analysis provides a roadmap on how to reach those who are still expressing COVID vaccine hesitancy. 

Personas and Motivations 


Thanks to concerted efforts by public health, state government and healthcare systems, most people in the enthusiasts group have already found information about how to schedule a vaccine. They lined up early and often and can be found wearing their “Got my vaccine” button.  

Your work here is mostly done, so focus on the remaining four groups.  


This group will carefully observe early adopters and make note of how the vaccine affects others before making a decision. These individuals want to follow social norms but need reassurance before acting.  


Motivate the “watchful” by sharing stories and images of people who are vaccinated. Highlight how many people in the community are fully vaccinated and keep repeating messaging points related to protecting others. Consider a registration option for “later.” Scheduling an appointment two months out feels safer and more controlled for this moderate group.   


The working class or the working poor represent a large portion of this persona. Their concerns aren’t exclusively about the price of vaccination, rather the cost of missing work for an appointment, the expense of childcare or transportation to a vaccine clinic and hidden fees that come with a “free” immunization.  


Show and tell is the most effective strategy to reach this group. Bring the vaccine clinic to their work, place of worship or grocery store and make it a convenient part of their normal routine. Show them how quick and easy it is to go through the process. Have pictures or handouts that explain exactly who pays how much for services and verbally review it with the consumer. Bonus points if your local businesses provide paid time off for employees receiving the vaccine (and for both doses if not receiving the single shot).   

System Distrusters 

Marginalized populations, people of color and underserved communities make up this group. They share a belief that the healthcare system in general doesn’t treat people of their race/ethnicity or belief system fairly. As such, they expect vaccine availability and distribution to be unequitable.  


Members of this persona need to see local leadership actively involved in planning vaccine distribution. They want an opportunity (some public, some private) to share concerns about fairness and equality. Trusted leaders from the specific communities represented carry a huge amount of influence on the population. To maximize success, identify vaccine champions/ambassadors that look like your targeted demographic and make them highly, highly visible.  

COVID Skeptics 

If we’re going to reach herd immunity, we have to find a way to convert some of the COVID skeptics into fully-vaccinated citizens. A good first step is realizing the primary barrier for this group is a deeply-held belief about COVID-19. The beliefs range from general conspiracy theories to specific ideas about powerful people manipulating society.  


Confronting them and trying to change their beliefs won’t be effective. Instead, use doctors and other trusted medical professionals to talk about what is happening in their community. Provide straightforward information and tangible examples. Try to avoid anything political.      

Eradicating COVID vaccine hesitancy in the next few weeks or months is unlikely, but you can certainly make a significant positive impact on your community by incorporating the helpful tips and information above into your vaccine marketing plan.  

If your team is searching for a tailored approach to complex marketing situations like this, let Ten Adams be your guide.

Talk to our experts. We know healthcare.   


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