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A medical provider speaks with an elderly patient at a vaccine clinic.

Innovation to Immunity: Information Sharing

Part IV: The who and how of vaccine communication 

In our latest series on COVID-19, Lionbridge experts offer perspectives on the ecosystem of clinical development and regulatory approvals during the pandemic and in the future.

With our scale, service excellence and suite of language, communication and technology solutions, Lionbridge is well positioned to help you develop and deliver safe medicines and market them globally.

In just over a year, the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 went from a seemingly isolated outbreak of pneumonia to a raging pandemic with no end in sight to, now, a potentially preventable threat. Updates from government entities and non-governmental organizations have ranged from fear-inducing to optimistic to pure fiction, and the public response has been as varied.

The pandemic has highlighted health illiteracy around the globe, which could be addressed through education, but realistically, is an issue more easily solved with clearer communication on the part of scientific, medical and governmental representatives. 

Who is involved in the vaccine conversation?

The players in the global discussion of immunizations can be broadly broken down into four categories:

  • Government agencies and regulatory authorities 
  • The pharmaceutical industry
  • Healthcare providers and public health experts 
  • The general public and patients 

In the first two groups, much of the information flow is one way: most communications from governments, regulators and pharmaceutical companies are released to the public without a back-and-forth. The final two are much more interactive. 

While any pairing of these groups has some interaction, the dissemination of news from those in government and drug companies to the public is the most critical information flow at the moment for encouraging vaccine acceptance.

What are some communication options?

How and where information-sharing takes place has a big impact on the effectiveness of communication. For many decades, scientific research has been accessible to only other scientists: paid submissions and paid subscriptions to scientific journals kept knowledge within professional and industry circles. As open access culture has grown, scientists in other areas, journalists and the general public have more and more opportunities to take in research results on their own.

Even leaving aside the growth of open access culture, the pandemic has been an accelerator for transmitting scientific information. The urgency surrounding detection and prevention has meant more experts have spoken more directly to the public at large than would during normal times.

This increase in information flow can be a boon, as it accelerates education. It can also be a double-edged sword, if one considers the idea that “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” That’s because experts and laypeople communicate in what can seem like distinct vocabularies. Industry jargon may be easily comprehensible to insiders but can confuse new audience members. Proactive, plain language communication can preempt some of this confusion. Broadly speaking, there are three categories of information outflow about medical and scientific advances:

  • Untargeted or slightly targeted information drops, including social and mainstream media, in one direction
  • Discrete, consumable, and repeatable fact sharing sessions (still in one direction)
  • One-on-one conversations (bidirectional)


Social media and outlets like television news, radio and print are great for reaching broad populations with overarching information. For the most part, these “conversations” with the public are unilateral—although social media platforms offer the opportunity for engagement. 

Media in general can be a tricky communication channel because of restrictions on time and space. Editing that happens between governments and/or pharmaceutical companies may leave out critical information. On the other hand, these forums can be great for getting research “translated” by experts who communicate with their audiences in popular terms.

Consumable, reviewable assets

These are great resources that can run the gamut from high level overviews to in-depth investigations. Webinars, PDFs, blog posts and press releases could all be in this category. The information flow is one direction and can be repackaged as needed for varying geographies and languages. Because these assets are owned by their creators, writers have more control over what information is relayed and how.

Personalized conversations

These are the rarest communications in drug development pipelines, as they are time intensive. They are also a more trusted form of education, as they create more personal relationships.

Healthcare providers are the most likely to have these conversations. The pharmaceutical industry can provide patient-friendly materials to support these conversations and can adivse providers themselves as well.

How can industry optimize communications with the public?

Lionbridge has years of experience converting technical and jargon-filled content into readable information. Our experts in medical and scientific fields have both the subject and linguistic expertise to convert texts into layman’s terms. Whether you need information for varying ages, languages or reading levels, Lionbridge offers fast, reliable services to reach your customers around the globe. 

Connect with our team to learn more.

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April M. Crehan
April M. Crehan