Health literacy as a social vaccine in the COVID-19 pandemic

Orkan Okan, Melanie Messer, Diane Levin-Zamir, Leena Paakkari, Kristine Sorensen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel virus in the coronavirus family, causing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Biomedical vaccines are key but alongside biomedical vaccines, a social vaccine can be similarly useful to prevent infection from SARS-CoV-2, if applied as a health promotion strategy. In order to slow down and control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, applying the social vaccine concept should be considered in parallel. From a health promotion perspective, a social vaccine is a process of social and political mobilization driven by governmental and non-governmental organizations aiming at populations by applying interventions such as health communication, education and mass media campaigns as well as determinant-based programs to address environmental factors influencing personal behavior and community capacities to cope with and overcome the societal burdens of COVID-19. In this context, health literacy is significant, as seen in the role it plays in empowering citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and enabling them to deal with health information considering COVID-19. As a public health strategy, health literacy as a social vaccine will enable individuals and communities to mitigate the spread of the virus by understanding and applying information as provided through governments and health authorities. The aim of this article is to explore health literacy as a promising social vaccine and opportunity to utilize social vaccination and thus be considered as a key public health approach - both bottom-up and top-down - to support the combat of COVID-19 and future states of emergency.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdaab197
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • COVID-19
  • health literacy
  • infodemic
  • non-pharmaceutical intervention
  • social vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Health literacy as a social vaccine in the COVID-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this