Ghana received its shipment of the COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, 24th February, 2021. The first wave of the vaccines was targeted to the low and middle income countries through the COVAX Facility, a global initiative formed by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners in guaranteeing equitable access to vaccines. A number of vaccination centers were released in ensuring a smooth vaccination process in a bid to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
The President, Vice President as well as the First and Second Lady of Ghana were the first to receive the dose of the 60,000 vaccines which was televised on all media platforms to encourage the citizenry of Ghana in taking the vaccine. However, in convincing the general public in taking the shots-in-arm vaccination, there is the need to fully comprehend the theory of Diffusion of Innovation, a concept in Marketing literature and its effect on the adoption of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Diffusion of Innovation is the process by which the adoption of an innovation spreads. It is the filtering and acceptance of new products and members of a community or social system. Diffusion of Innovation, a theory that applies to new products and its acceptance in society, provides a model for the increasing number of people in Ghana who are willing as well as eager to get vaccinated. Based on the diffusion framework, the number and groups of people who adopt or accept a new product or who seek to get vaccinated in a population can be classified into five groups.
They are namely; the Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards. Each of these groups of participants has its own behavioural and demographic characteristics, with its varying levels of uncertainty about the new product’s value over time.
Innovators are the first participants of the Diffusion of Innovation model according to Marketing literature, they form 2.5% of the whole population who are likely to accept a new product (vaccine). Innovators are eager to try new products. They are influencers of a population or have a high-ranked profile. Innovators are mostly risk takers as they are the first to accept any new product in a market or population in general. Early Adopters are the second group of participants in the diffusion model and they form 13.5% of the whole population in accepting a new product (vaccine).
These group of people are open to ideas but prefer to wait and see how the new product goes after the initial launch and observe the experience of the innovators. Early adopters are guided by respect in their communities and adopt a new product early but carefully. Compared to innovators, these group of people rely on group norms and values. The Early Majority are the third set of people who eventually accept and adopt a new product (vaccine). However, the early majority weigh the pros and cons before adopting a new product. According to Marketing literature, they form 34% of the whole population. They are likely to collect more information and tend to evaluate carefully before accepting a new product. These people are cautious in trying new products. Thus, decision making is deliberate in order to avoid any risk associated with trying new products. The Late Majority also form 34% of the whole population according to Marketing literature. The late majority will only accept or adopt a new product (vaccine) when most other people already have. Individuals in the late majority group are mostly skeptical of new products but eventually adopt them only after a majority of people have already tried it. Their acceptance stems from the pressure to conform.
The late majority depend mainly on word of mouth communication. The last people to accept or adopt a new product or vaccine are known in Marketing literature as the Laggards.
They form 16% of the whole population and mainly accept a new product after every one has adopted the product and when the product is likely going to decline off the market. By the time laggards may finally accept a new product, it may be probably outmoded or replaced by something else. Laggards like to stick to their old ways of life and hardly change their style of doing things. They are known in marketing as traditionalist.
The government of Ghana is prioritizing certain groups to receive the vaccine, with medical professionals and certain government personnel at the top, followed by the vulnerable population and then to the general population. To maximize the number of individuals in any group to be willing and get vaccinated, there is the need for a keen understanding on each of the participants of the diffusion model.
The diffusion model indicates that a combination of personal and societal factors influences the rate of adoption. With these factors in mind, in helping spread the adoption of the COVID-19 vaccines of all participants of the model, the innovators in encouraging others to get vaccinated, should describe the importance of their decision, such as the pride they feel about getting vaccinated to their families, patients and the general public at large. Innovators can play a key role in influencing early adopters and early majority by addressing their uncertainties by providing detailed information as to how and where to get vaccinated and the convenience of the process as well as instilling confidence in the general public which may create a momentum and enthusiasm in getting vaccinated.
Once the vaccine is available to the early majority, it is essential to employ word-of-mouth communication, that means enlisting celebrities, social leaders to endorse the vaccine and encourage people to seek it. Since multiple vaccines may still be available by the time the late majority and laggards may accept the vaccine, it is important that trusted sources continually inform and emphasize to these groups so that they are well-educated and eventually make the right choice of getting vaccinated. As you are reading this: Are you an innovator, early adopter, early majority, late majority or a laggard of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The writer is a Lecturer – Department of Marketing Kumasi Technical University