NFID Releases New Communications Framework to Promote COVID-19 Prevention Measures

Guidance Reflects Expertise from Leading Healthcare, Business, Union, and Education Groups

Bethesda, MD (March 23, 2021)—The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) issued a new framework today to help leaders across many sectors—including healthcare, business, education, employer, workforce, and government—develop and implement communications that will promote vaccine acceptance and encourage the public to follow evidence-based COVID-19 prevention measures. The framework outlined in the report, COVID-19 Communications: Promoting Prevention Measures and Vaccine Confidence, offers a scalable approach with strategies and messaging for COVID-19 education and outreach efforts.

The new report is based on discussions among a multidisciplinary group of experts at an NFID-led virtual roundtable with participants from more than 50 leading organizations and agencies, including the American College Health Association, Business Group on Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration, Johns Hopkins University, Kaiser Family Foundation, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Institutes of Health, National Medical Association, and Service Employees International Union.

With more than 28 million cases of COVID-19 and 500,000 deaths in the US as of March 1, 2021, adherence to mitigation efforts remains paramount. To control the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth, socially distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, washing hands, staying home, especially when sick, and getting vaccinated when eligible. Roundtable participants noted that the unprecedented pandemic situation calls for leaders across all sectors—including business, religious organizations, public health, and education—to be part of the solution and to help keep the public informed of the most up-to-date recommendations.

“Since the early days of the pandemic, CDC has recommended preventive measures such as masks and social distancing to control the spread of the virus, but hesitancy has persisted among several groups,” said NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD. “Public health and medical professionals cannot do this alone. The only way we can address these challenges is by ensuring consistent communication that addresses concerns, meets the needs of various target audiences, and offers practical solutions to help people follow public health guidance.”

The NFID roundtable was held in late January 2021, as vaccination efforts started to accelerate across the country, and states were shifting their public health requirements. According to data presented at the roundtable by the Kaiser Family Foundation, challenges to ensuring consistent adherence to public health recommendations include misconceptions, personal views (wearing a mask should be a personal choice), and confusion over current guidelines.

“By their very nature, pandemics are evolving public health crises, in which new scientific discoveries are made at a rapid pace,” said NFID President-Elect Patricia A. Stinchfield, MS, CPNP. “Unfortunately, this can mean that the general public receives changing recommendations about how to keep themselves and others healthy, or they hear seemingly conflicting information about vaccines—which can all be a bit overwhelming. Our role is to earn the trust of the people we want to protect and to listen and meet them where they are literally and figuratively.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation also shared data showing an increase in vaccine confidence among the public. As of February 2021, more than half of US adults (55 percent) said they want to get vaccinated as soon as possible (37 percent) or have already received at least one dose (18 percent), compared to 34 percent who wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible in December 2020. About 22 percent said they would wait and see before they would get a vaccine, and the remaining 22 percent were unwilling to get vaccinated. For the wait-and-see group, the biggest concerns revolved around whether the vaccines are safe and the potential for serious and long-term side effects. Experts participating in the NFID roundtable agreed that in order to get the public to accept vaccination as a social norm, it is necessary to listen and respond to valid concerns.

“To get through this pandemic, we need to continue to educate people about how best to minimize COVID-19 risks and build trust in the available vaccines,” said NFID Executive Director and CEO Marla Dalton. “But these messages need to come from more than just public health and government organizations. They also need to be shared by trusted healthcare professionals, businesses, civic groups, and community leaders. Through this report, NFID is arming leaders across sectors with a framework they can use, to help ensure the safety of all.”

NFID issued the report on March 23, 2021—marking the one-year anniversary of closing its Bethesda, MD office and shifting to a fully virtual work environment, following the US government declaration of COVID-19 as a national emergency on March 13, 2020.

Additional resources about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines are available at www.nfid.org/coronavirus.

About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan. Visit www.nfid.org for more information about NFID.

Contact: Diana Olson, dolson@nfid.org, 301-656-0003 x140