Understanding and addressing vaccine hesitancy in the context of COVID-19: development of a digital intervention
Knight H., Jia R., Ayling K., Bradbury K., Baker K., Chalder T., Morling JR., Durrant L., Avery T., Ball JK., Barker C., Bennett R., McKeever T., Vedhara K.
Objectives: Severe Acute Respiratory Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was identified in late 2019, spreading to over 200 countries and resulting in almost two million deaths worldwide. The emergence of safe and effective vaccines provides a route out of the pandemic, with vaccination uptake of 75–90% needed to achieve population protection. Vaccine hesitancy is problematic for vaccine rollout; global reports suggest only 73% of the population may agree to being vaccinated. As a result, there is an urgent need to develop equitable and accessible interventions to address vaccine hesitancy at the population level. Study design: & Method: We report the development of a scalable digital intervention seeking to address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and enhance uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in the United Kingdom. Guided by motivational interviewing (MI) principles, the intervention includes a series of therapeutic dialogues addressing 10 key concerns of vaccine-hesitant individuals. Development of the intervention occurred linearly across four stages. During stage 1, we identified common reasons for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy through analysis of existing survey data, a rapid systematic literature review, and public engagement workshops. Stage 2 comprised qualitative interviews with medical, immunological, and public health experts. Rapid content and thematic analysis of the data provided evidence-based responses to common vaccine concerns. Stage 3 involved the development of therapeutic dialogues through workshops with psychological and digital behaviour change experts. Dialogues were developed to address concerns using MI principles, including embracing resistance and supporting self-efficacy. Finally, stage 4 involved digitisation of the dialogues and pilot testing with members of the public. Discussion: The digital intervention provides an evidence-based approach to addressing vaccine hesitancy through MI principles. The dialogues are user-selected, allowing exploration of relevant issues associated with hesitancy in a non-judgmental context. The text-based content and digital format allow for rapid modification to changing information and scalability for wider dissemination.