Vaccine Hesitancy: 10 Lessons from Chatbotting about COVID-19 in 17 Countries

This article originally appeared on the World Bank Blog. Below is a brief excerpt.

In January 2021 the World Bank launched a new program to support countries to understand and reduce vaccine hesitancy using behavioral science. The work is done through social media surveys and randomized experiments, allowing us to understand people’s beliefs about COVID-19 and vaccination intentions. A chatbot — a software application that simulates human conversation — facilitates conducting these surveys. The information is then used to inform the countries’ behavior-change communications to address vaccine hesitancy.

The work was initiated in the Middle East and North Africa region, with Iraq and Lebanon as the first two pilot countries. The program subsequently expanded to a total of 17 countries in 2021 (in all World Bank regions), and in three of these countries we deepened the engagement with multiple rounds of testing. In all, over 140,000 responses about COVID-19 vaccine intentions and behaviors have been collected through 24 social-media surveys in 11 languages. As we scale this work to more countries, and to mark the one-year milestone, 10 lessons in addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy globally emerge.

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