EP#91: How to Talk about Vaccines – with Merryn McKinnon

On this episode of GovComms, contentgroup CEO David Pembroke speaks to Merryn McKinnon, a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the ANU.

Merryn is one of Australia’s experts on helping scientists and policy makers communicate science issues with clarity and impact. She regularly appears on ABC Radio to discuss scientific issues, and she recently hosted the Science Communication Panel at the 2020 GovComms Festival.

In 2017, Merryn published an academic paper about the history of vaccination campaigns and how government have executed vaccination campaigns in the past. With the COVID-19 vaccine around the corner, Merryn has come on to the GovComms Podcast to discuss the challenges and opportunities the government faces in convincing the public to get vaccinated.

Merryn and David address the debate around whether focusing on emotion is more effective than focusing on scientific fact. Trust in experts and scientists has risen in 2020, but is appealing to people’s empathy and humanity more effective in changing behaviour? Who should be the government’s prime audience when it comes to their communications about the vaccine?

Merryn also explains the role that trust in government plays in contributing to effective vaccination campaigns. She also explains how government and politicians can regain trust so that the public will feel more comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Merryn also discusses the anti-vaccination sentiment that is prominent on social media. She explains why people call themselves anti-vaxxers, and how government needs to communicate with these people.

Discussed in this episode:

  • How governments should talk about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The movement of anti-vaxxers, and how government should communicate with people who are reluctant to take the vaccine.
  • Trust in government, experts and scientists during the COVID-19 pandemic.