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  • Writer's pictureDhyan

Using people-driven design to explore solutions related to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in communities

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

“How might we combat COVID-19 misinformation in four steps?”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we found many people were hesitant about COVID-19 testing and vaccines - which was often shaped by misinformation (for example, see our COVID-19 Remote Insights Gathering study).

We were engaged by UNICEF to facilitate communities in Aceh, Banten, East Java and Maluku to develop potential solutions and messaging to address these issues.

This is how we do it.

STEP 1 “Immersion”

As part of better understanding behaviours related to COVID-19 prevention and vaccination, we immersed in communities by listening to people, “hanging out”, and experiencing their day to day lives for several days.

Some of the insights across locations included that:

  • Most communities denied the existence of COVID-19 in their village. This view was typically influenced by the lack of first-hand experience, compared with what they saw on the TV.

  • People did not think COVID-19 could transmit easily and reach their village.

"There is no COVID-19 in the village"
  • Even though many people were aware of COVID-19 symptoms, they avoided testing out of fear of being quarantined and separated from family, and in some locations also to avoid stigma in case they tested positive.

  • When people had tested positive, many expressed suspicions that these were false positive results because they did not seem sick.

  • Since people denied COVID-19 in their village, most people did not think they needed the vaccine.

"Paling-paling dicovidkan (false positive)
  • Rumours of bad side effects further perpetuated hesitancy to take the vaccine.

STEP 2 “Inspiration”

Next, we use insights from the immersion to identify focus areas or behaviours to target during the community-level PDD workshops.

Then, we develop “how might we” challenge questions tailored to these insights.

STEP 3a: “Ideation”

When we go back to the communities, we share back insights from the immersion, pose the “how might we” question, and brainstorm local ideas for addressing this challenge.

STEP 3b: “Design - Prototyping”

In Aceh Utara, the PDD workshop engaged mothers with different vaccine uptake status around the question:

"How might we learn about vaccine effects and encourage others to take the vaccine?"

In Seram Bagian Barat, our facilitators engaged participants from the puskesmas, local midwives, PKK (community welfare group), village office, church, and school around the question:

"How might we provide coordinated reassurance (medical, religious, facts) regarding vaccine uptake?"

For example, mothers in Aceh developed localised posters and leaflets as visual aids to help explain about the vaccine to others, using key messages they developed.

STEP 4 “Trialing”

Over the following weeks, groups test their solutions’ effect on supporting positive change, reflecting upon its feasibility, acceptability, and compatibility.

For example, after a one-month trial period, mothers in Aceh shared that vaccination rates had increased.

To help support community initiatives like these, we established the Empatika Foundation. Empatika Foundation is a separate entity from our research and training departments, ensuring that our research remains independent.

Chat with our Director of Programs, Ibe, to learn more. Email to:

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