Background: The 2009 H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccination campaign presented numerous communication challenges – delivering clear and consistent messages on the safety of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine was a priority.
Setting: During the 2009 H1N1 vaccination campaign, vaccine safety communications were developed and implemented using science-based communications strategies, risk communication principles, and formative research to disseminate timely and tailored messages aimed at specific target audiences.
Population: Target audiences for 2009 H1N1 vaccine safety communication included clinicians and other public health partners, the general public, and the media. Messages were developed collaboratively based on available formative research and included information on vaccine approvals, clinical trial data, safety of influenza vaccines, safety comparisons of H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines, new and enhanced vaccine safety monitoring efforts, medical event background rates, and post-licensure safety data.
Project Description: To reach the target audiences, several activities were conducted. Clinicians and public health communicators were targeted through conference calls, webinars, and collaborations with professional organizations. Print ads in professional journals encouraged accurate and timely reporting of potential adverse events through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Public-private partnerships with clinician-centered websites helped reach clinicians not captured through other means. Outreach to media included traditional methods (e.g., press conferences) and novel tabletop exercises on vaccine safety monitoring and messaging. Public information was made available via HHS, CDC, FDA, and NIH websites (e.g., low-literacy fact sheets, videos, webcasts). The Department worked proactively to report vaccine safety data weekly through websites, press conferences, message documents, and partner calls.
Results/Lessons Learned: Lessons learned from these coordinated and comprehensive efforts reveal the importance of contextual framing of safety messages, continuing education and training for clinicians, the use of social media and other new media channels to communicate, and leveraging partnerships to expand message reach. These lessons can be applied to vaccine safety communication for future influenza seasons and may contribute to communications efforts around other vaccines as well.
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