Has Singapore’s public communication efforts on COVID-19 Vaccination Programme been effective?

Opinion essay application. (700 word limit)

#IGotMyShot campaign video featuring Phua Chu Kang and Rosie, characters from the iconic Singaporean sitcom.

The mass media has the power to influence others, and this is no different in light of Singapore’s public communication efforts on the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme. To promote the national immunization program, Singapore launched the VacciNation SG campaign to correct misinformation and tackle vaccine hesitancy.

VacciNation SG

A creative example includes the ‘#IGotMyShot’ campaign video featuring Phua Chu Kang, an iconic local character who participated in a SARS health messaging video. Addressing people’s concerns in an engaging manner, he uses Singlish to relate to citizens and encourage them to take the vaccine quickly. COVID-19 vaccination infographics are also available on the government’s vaccination page.

Additionally, channels on gov.sg like COVID-19 FAQ and COVID-19 Info Bot provide clarification. Other formal channels, such as press statements and parliamentary questions, address current concerns raised. News agencies such as the Straits Times have developed FAQ columns too. Utilizing broadcast media, social media, and messaging platforms like TikTok and Telegram allows information to be easily shared with the masses. Trust in such official sources instills confidence in the credibility of the vaccines.

Problems faced & Solution

Despite the government’s best efforts, people may still be hesitant — specifically, the elderly in Singapore. Factors behind vaccine hesitancy may be attributed to being risk-averse, distrusting government sources, and spreading misinformation. Based on a study targeting Singaporeans aged 56–75, convincing citizens with less trust in formal sources through friends and family and consistent health messaging using targeted strategies may be most effective. Furthermore, suggestions from a CNA article include using audio and video messages to depict vaccination as a societal norm beyond civic duty.

A cumulation of these suggestions can be seen in the “Vaccinate Already” videos on govsg’s Youtube channel. Targeting the elderly, the clips are available in Chinese, Malay, and Tamil. For example, the Chinese version uses Hokkien dialect and Mandarin, with celebrities familiar to the elderly featured in the getai-inspired video. With vibrant set designs reminiscent of coffee shops and Mamak shops, the video’s relevance to their lives may persuade vaccine-hesitant seniors through emotions.

Comparison with America

In other countries like the United States, there are no concrete vaccination campaigns like those in Singapore to persuade vaccine-hesitant groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has adopted general advisories, using statistics and facts to promote vaccination. However, the communication materials do not engage citizens emotionally. Additionally, there is great distrust of the government, as reflected by negative comments on their Instagram and Twitter pages. Hence, people cannot identify with the vaccination campaign.

To counter misinformation, Singapore responded swiftly to COVID-19 falsities, putting the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act into play. Such legislative measures allow citizens to make informed decisions about their COVID-19 vaccination. Comparatively, the United States does not have strict media censorship laws like Singapore. The media landscape has been saturated with conflicting narratives, making it difficult to discern truth from falsehoods regarding vaccinations.

Considering that communication efforts can influence the public’s attitudes towards vaccination, this essay will measure the effectiveness of communication efforts using vaccination rates. As of March 12, 2022, 92% of Singapore’s population has received the first dose, 91% of the overall population is fully vaccinated, and 70% of the total population has received their booster shot. As of March 13, 2022, 76.7% of the United States’ population has received their first dose, 65.3% of the overall population is fully vaccinated, and 44.3% of the total population has received a booster shot.

Conclusion

Singapore’s public communication efforts on the COVID-19 vaccination programme are effective, having communicated crucial information and the importance of the vaccination. This has been reflected in high vaccination rates that highlight the public’s positive opinion on Singapore’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

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