Millions await their COVID-19 vaccination, as states and localities move through prioritization systems and infrastructure challenges. Despite often lacking oversight over public health systems, mayors are frequently called on to explain and help navigate these systems for their constituents.
Collaboration with local health departments and strong local information campaigns have proven crucial in combating this pandemic. With the patchwork of vaccination distribution varying across and within states, many residents have been confused about eligibility and access. Leaders in El Paso, TX established a City registration site for residents to register and book COVID vaccination appointments across various providers.
What else can mayors and city leaders do now to improve access to and understanding of vaccine distribution for their cities? Bloomberg Philanthropies and the US Conference of Mayors created and curated excellent resources targeted for mayors, covering data and monitoring, as well as public engagement.
Two mayors from our network share how they’re promoting education on vaccine safety and importance and support access to efficient vaccinations in their communities. The takeaways? Regular, consistent, evidence-based messaging has a notable impact among residents. And cities are poised to support vaccination rollout with infrastructure and nimble staffing.
Can’t go wrong with fact-based communication
Both Mayors Clark and Gregerson highlighted the effectiveness of simple email lists to regularly share the most important information with residents. Because they had established this avenue of communication already, using it as a tool to share vaccine-specific content was a logical next step (in addition to social media). Mayor Gregerson’s email includes specific advice, targeted especially at the less tech-savvy. For example, she shares details about when to log on and refresh sites to increase the chances of securing a vaccine appointment. She seeks out new sources of information to improve and target her communications, including medical websites that have the most reliable evidence, and Next Door, where residents share their concerns and frustrations. Mayor Clark uses Facebook live Q&A sessions to ask her questions to the experts, and to provide a forum for residents to live chat their own questions in real time.
Put me in Coach, I’m ready!
Mayors are poised to support infrastructure and information sharing, and now have almost a year of pandemic governing experience to know what works. Mayor Gregerson has made appointments directly for some residents, and she offers to text residents when appointments are available. Mayor Clark’s experience in Norman creating a “vaccine pod” illustrates why cities are so well suited to support new needs. From learning about a shipment of extra doses available through a local provider, to establishing a public site at a community center, staffed by city workers—the project went from idea to implementation in one day. The success of this pilot effort and the range of City partners involved means Norman will host regular vaccine pods in community centers in targeted neighborhoods.
Follow our newsletter for more information on resources for cities and vaccinations. Click here if you have an innovation to share from your own work. And keep an eye out for a special community engagement tool available to Mayors Innovation Project cities!