Staff Testimonials to Normalize Vaccine Experiences

A key component of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is misinformation and disinformation about vaccine safety that is combined with fear and uncertainty about side effects. Hearing from known and trusted people about their vaccine experience is useful in decreasing fear and increasing acceptance.

Public health departments, resettlement agencies, community-based organizations and others working with refugee, immigrant and migrant (RIM) communities can help overcome misinformation and disinformation by creating their own staff testimonial videos. It can be particularly helpful when vaccinated staff are also multilingual and from RIM communities. If the staff member speaks multiple languages, especially client spoken languages, it is encouraged to create videos in the respective languages for wider reach.

These short videos are memorable for their use of recognizable, trusted staff with whom RIM individuals have developed a relationship with over many years. Having staff informally and authentically talk about their COVID-19 vaccine experience helps normalize and humanize the process. Central to each video is having the featured staff share how it felt to get the vaccine (did it hurt, etc.), what if any side effects they experienced and for how long, confirmation that they are okay post-vaccination, and any personal reflections on what it means for them to be fully vaccinated. Having both individuals from RIM communities and known, trusted staff, who may also identify as being from within the RIM community, is particularly appreciated as a variety of voices at all levels of the organization and the community broadens the efforts while not targeting any one community in particular for vaccination. These staff testimonial videos can be a low cost, high impact tool to increase vaccination acceptance.

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Testimonial Tips

  1. Incorporate local, familiar staff faces from the respective agency, at any level, who the RIM community knows and trust, and with whom they likely speak to on a regular basis. Note: The act of getting vaccinated can be a private, personal experience; therefore, staff should be made aware of this opportunity and that it is a personal choice to “opt in” to doing these videos. It is important that staff do not feel pressured or coerced and that the time to create videos is compensated work time.
  2. Provide a script framework but encourage the staff member to adapt it to their own words to accommodate both their personal style and any cultural nuances (see below for a sample script).
  3. Offer support for reviewing the script or doing “run-throughs” with someone who may be nervous, and show them example testimonials for inspiration.
  4. Make sure the finished video is informal and uses dialogue that is friendly, personable and intimate. The aim is to share a person's experience of getting vaccinated, rather than to present a list of impersonal, scientific facts about the vaccine or tell people watching that they “must” get vaccinated. The goal is to appeal to people’s emotions, ease their fears and provide motivation.
  5. If the video is in another language than English, have the video content validated by at least one other person from within the community who speaks the same language. The purpose is to ensure that the tone, style, dialect and messaging is culturally appropriate. This includes taking into account the community’s literacy and educational backgrounds (view NRC-RIM's content validation checklist here for guidance).
  6. Make sure the video is short (less than 3 minutes is ideal) in length to make information more digestible and easier to process, and to capture people’s attention.

Example Script Elements

Example Script Elements

Testimonials do not need to be overly scripted. Messaging may resonate better if it is unpolished and feels authentic and natural. However, it may help staff to stay on topic and keep the video succinct if they write down points that they want to cover. These could include the staff member:

  • Introducing themselves, their role and connection to the agency.

  • Mentioning that they received the vaccine for many reasons, but with the overall idea to: 1) protect themselves, others and their loved ones (they may provide specific reasons), 2) a desire to return to the pre-pandemic life of visiting family and friends, and 3) not having to worry about becoming very ill or dying from COVID-19. (For example, a staff member shares being able to visit her 80 years old mother and finally being able to hug her.)

  • Normalizing the side effects by noting that these are common and temporary reactions to the vaccine while the body is building protection. They may describe their specific symptoms, if any, post vaccination and how they feel now once the side effects are gone. 

  • Describing what it feels like to be fully vaccinated including things they feel more comfortable doing now or any sense of increased safety they may have.

  • Encouraging other individuals to get the vaccine in order to protect oneself, family members, and community.

Download an example script created by the International Rescue Committee and NRC-RIM. 

"Genuine” and “Authentic”: Responses to IRC Staff Testimonials

International Rescue Committee (IRC) staff in Salt Lake City, Elizabeth, Seattle, Dallas and Boise recorded short (1-3 minutes), personal testimonials about their own experience of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The idea for these videos grew from focus groups hosted by Salt Lake City, where individuals from RIM communities shared that they did not know many people who had gotten the vaccine, and that they would like to hear from people they know who have been vaccinated before getting the vaccine themselves. During these focus groups, IRC staff disclosed that they had gotten the vaccine prompting numerous participants to ask about their experience. The result of these exchanges was that participants expressed greater confidence in the vaccines and increased acceptance. 

IRC staff adapted script templates to reflect their own words and tone along with cultural nuances before recording themselves using cell phones. To ensure the video messages’ quality and accuracy, other bilingual, bicultural staff reviewed and approved the videos. Currently, there are 20 videos available in 10 languages available on NRC-RIM’s YouTube Channel (English, Swahili, Somali, Burmese, Kinyarwanda, Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish, Rohingya, and Dari), with potentially more to come as more individuals become fully vaccinated.

After engaging in 1 to 1 direct conversations with clients who received the videos, IRC clients have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the videos, stating that they value seeing people they know and trust talk about their vaccine experience. They have also expressed appreciation of the informal and friendly nature of these “authentic” and “genuine” videos. In Salt Lake City, knowing how trusted staff members felt after getting vaccinated helped RIM clients to feel more comfortable with the vaccine. Afghan and Congolese clients, communities who have expressed more hesitancy, in particular were more receptive after seeing the videos and an increased number of people indicated interest in getting vaccinated after seeing caseworkers they knew in the videos. When clients call and express hesitancy and concern, IRC staff members ask if they can share the videos, which has helped many people choose to get vaccinated. The videos are low budget and low effort but high return and high impact project, making this something any agency can do.