Social media vaccination advice

Advice for staff when discussing COVID-19 vaccinations on social media platforms

We want staff who are active on social media to feel comfortable sharing news from the NHS, especially at a time when information changes often, such as new vaccination clinics or eligibility. Staff use of social media helps important information reach many more people than we’d reach via just the CCG or ICS accounts.

Unfortunately there are some people out there who see NHS staff who are active on social media as an invitation to attack, challenge or question the work we are doing – this could be a stranger a social media forum, but may even be someone you have known for years. Some of you will want to defend the great work of the NHS, particularly around the vaccination programme, but this can be quite a hostile environment, so we thought it would be good to remind you of some advice as we head into the holiday period.

The first and most important thing to remember is:

You do not have to respond. At all. Ever. Each CCG has its comms teams, as do the trusts, and NHSE, and it’s their job to communicate with the public. If any account is going to be attacked online, let it be one of the official ones, not your personal one.

The second thing to remember is:

This is not a fight you are likely to win, so it is not worth getting involved. We are nearly two years into this pandemic, and a year into the vaccination programme. Tens of millions of doses have been given across the UK, and billions worldwide. The benefits (tremendous) and risks (very rare) are well known by now.

Whilst some people may still have genuine concerns about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, unfortunately there are many people who “just wanting to ask questions” but are not doing so in good faith: they are looking to pick a fight, and there’s no answer you can give or argument you can make that will change their mind. They have time: we are all tired and have a busy winter ahead of us. Let it go. Don’t respond. If anyone you’re already in conversation with really has questions, send them to Healthier Future COVID-19 vaccination FAQs page and leave it at that.

What everyone who has a social media account should do is check their privacy settings, so that all are at the highest level. Make sure that people cannot get hold of your email, phone number or any personal information. You should look at setting your account so that only people you have accepted as friends can see your posts. Learn how to mute individuals, keywords or conversations so that you can keep unwelcome stuff out of your timeline. If you think you are under attack, take your account private, or suspend it for a week or two.

Don’t be this person. Leave it be.       

Mute, or block anyone or any topic that’s giving you grief, and don’t respond at all. If it’s abusive, consider reporting it. If you get any emails demanding information, forward them to the Comms team’s inbox.

If anyone sends you what looks like a legal letter, just forward it to your Governance team. Even if it names you personally, it’s nothing to worry about, but it’s designed to make you anxious. It’s legal nonsense.

Anything else, forward to the CCG comms inbox.

The National Cyber Security Centre has good, up-to-date advice on the privacy settings for various social media platforms.

We can’t deny that social media does also have many benefits – it helps us communicate key messages to the public, allows friends and family to stay in touch, and is the home to lots of light-hearted content (you might like to check out @dog_rates or @Bodegacats_ on Twitter!), but we must all remember to stay mindful and safe in the virtual world.

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