Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine administration is well underway. Healthcare personnel and public health departments are planning, preparing and implementing detailed and careful vaccination programs. Like other COVID-19 response efforts including testing, flu shot support, providing shelter, and distributing essential resources and vital information, park and recreation professionals are partnering with public health and local government officials to help communities meet vaccination and immunization goals. One of the many ways park and recreation professionals can support vaccination goals includes providing education about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines to both employees and the greater community.
As trusted, community-based leaders with a large following and network, park and recreation professionals can support the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccination communications to educate the public and ensure public confidence, relay timely, accessible, and effective health and safety messaging, and track and monitor public receptiveness to communications.
This is crucial because research shows that there is substantial reluctance around the COVID-19 vaccine, with many reporting that they will not get the vaccine or have questions about the safety, how it was developed, potential side effects and more. Clear, consistent, and effective communication and education is essential to build vaccine confidence, dispel misinformation, reach populations who may be hesitant to get the vaccine or who lack access to healthcare, and generally implement a successful COVID-19 vaccination program.
To educate the public and build confidence around the COVID-19 vaccines, The Ad Council and COVID Collaborative have launched the “It’s Up to You” campaign. Through the campaign, various toolkits, creative assets, and other resources are available to support messaging for community-based organizations and employers. Park and recreation professionals can utilize these resources to support vaccine program messaging. Included in the toolkit are:
- PSA assets (videos, online videos, banners available in a number of languages, etc.)
- Research and frequently asked questions about the vaccines
- Messaging guidance – messaging recommendations, tone, and elements that resonate
- Creative briefs (briefs to support targeted messaging and framing to connect with specific audiences)
- Social media tools – graphics, language and imagery that can be shared on social media platforms
It’s important to note that due to historical and unethical practices in healthcare and research, certain populations — specifically Black and Latino/Hispanic populations — share the same safety concerns and may have greater feelings of distrust than others. To support vaccine dissemination to these communities, the “It’s Up to You” campaign has developed resources and messaging targeted specifically for Black and Latino/Hispanic audiences based on extensive research.
Agencies should also provide education and timely information to staff regarding the vaccine. Resources are available specifically for employers and include:
- Guidance for preparing your organization for COVID-19 vaccines
- Sample emails from organization leadership about COVID-19 vaccines
- Guidance for managers in talking with employees about COVID-19 vaccines
- Communications guidance
- Audience insights and messaging guidance for Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native communities
- Resources for employees dealing with pandemic-related stress and anxiety
NRPA also has a webinar on the topic available for free.
The COVID-19 pandemic, including the availability of vaccines, continues to change rapidly. Refer to local public health and government officials or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the latest guidance and information regarding the vaccine.
For more information about NRPA’s response to COVID-19, as well as available resources for park and recreation professionals, please see our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) webpage.
Learn more in the previously-recorded webinar, "COVID-19 Pandemic and Vaccine: Applying an Equity Lens," to hear from experts in science, research and public health as they discuss vaccine options, reasons why people may be hesitant to get the vaccine, current challenges to implementation, and roles parks and recreation can play in ensuring equitable access to the vaccine to underserved communities.
Allison Colman is NRPA’s director of health.