It is being reported that people over the age of 80 will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine in the new vaccination centres that are being created. On the face of it that sounds like a major step forward and good news against the backdrop of rising deaths and infection rates. But it made me wonder about the practicalities for people to actually attend and get the vaccine.
The first challenge is that booking will be online or over the phone. Last year the digital revolution moved extremely quickly and there are many people who have been left behind. This includes many older people who are still reluctant to do online shopping, banking or to engage with services such as doctors through the new apps and websites. After that there is the challenge for how people actually get to these new centres. Many over 80s no longer drive, and if they do they are often uncomfortable with driving long distances. Due to the Covid restrictions they will not want to accept a lift from someone, and will be fearful of using public transport.
It is important to remember that there are many elderly and vulnerable people who have been shielding for almost a year. They have avoided going out and many will be extremely concerned and unwilling to venture outside particularly given the media headlines.
This situation highlights one of the aspects of crisis response and communication that has been occupying my thoughts for some time, which is building inequalities into the response. People making decisions, plans and defining the actions can work in isolation if they are not receiving and listening to the right advice. In the rush to take action and to show things are being done considering the consequences of the response can be forgotten. It is one of the reasons that I talk about the importance of consequence management to the response and critically to the crisis communication plan. (I cover it extensively in my book.)
As communicators we need to be involved in a conversation, listening as well as talking. We need to be asking the questions that others may not see, and to be aware of the mood, tone, and issues that exist. This means we must look at what is happening from the outside in, gain feedback, reach out to communities.
We know that inequality exists and that a crisis can make these inequalities greater or more obvious. This is why it is essential that crisis responders understand the implications of the approach they take, can work to be more inclusive, and create communication that supports this and is accessible. We must all try harder to achieve greater equality now more than ever.