London Borough of Hounslow: Used the messenger principle to address vaccine misinformation

Focused on both the message (what) and who (messenger) to tackle misinformation among minority groups.


This is part of a series of case-studies published on 22 February 2021

  • To understand how to best correct misinformation among minority groups, the council focused on both the message (what) and who (messenger).
  • Designed and tested three different types of messages and messengers
  • Targeted people within a 10 mile radius of Hounslow and recorded click through rates as their outcome metric.
  • Used the COM-B behavioural change framework as a prompt to identify barriers to take up. 

Challenge: Through surveys and engagement sessions, Hounslow realised that misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine was circulating within their area, specifically among South East Asian and Black Afro-Caribbean communities.

One of the most prevalent rumors circulating is that vaccine trials were rushed. This can further undermine confidence in COVID-19 vaccines within communities that have been identified as vaccine hesitant. 

Approach: To understand how to best correct misinformation among minority groups, the council focused on both the message (what) and who (messenger).

People are generally more receptive to information coming from figures that have authority and considered as trustworthy. Understanding the best combination of both can be an effective approach when targeting different communities. 

Outcome: The council designed and tested three different types of messages and messengers, including:

  1. An NHS infographic stating that the vaccine went through all of the same trials as other vaccines and medications.
  2. A council branded message redirecting viewers to a FAQ page with information on the vaccine.
  3. A quote from a local GP from either a South East Asian or a Black Afro-Caribbean background stating that the vaccine went through all the same trials as other vaccines.
  4. They developed these messages following a quick literature review of previous materials. Specifically, they used the COM-B Behavioural Change framework as a prompt to identify barriers to take up. 

They tested their messages on Facebook by conducting an A/B test. They targeted people within a 10 mile radius of Hounslow and recorded click through rates as their outcome metric: an indicator of engagement when tracking actual vaccination rates is not possible. 

Key Learning: When correcting misinformation, it is important to consider not only how but also who delivers the message. Running short experiments, such as an A/B test on Facebook, can help understand what works and for which audience.

Ultimately, it provides insight on how to best launch information campaigns. 

Quick Wins: Other examples of quick wins Hounslow have applied include: 

  1. Bringing local GPs when delivering FAQ sessions, recognising the increased trust the public has with them. 
  2. Using the principle of ‘social proof’ and leveraging social norms by providing residents with stickers to display prominently showing they’ve had the vaccine. 

Contact 
Sterling Rippy
Strategic Lead Behavioural Insights, Public Health
Sterling.Rippy@hounslow.gov.uk