Let’s Talk About: Risk

How do you explain a concept so new that it’s hard to articulate?

Take communicating ‘risk’ during the pandemic for example.

As the Global Travel Taskforce sets out framework to safely reopen international travel, their recommendations include the launch of a new ‘traffic light system’ – in ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’, which will categorise countries based on risk alongside the restrictions.

Ambiguous. But it can still be pretty universally understood.

Early this month, increasing evidence shows that there is a rare risk associated with the Astrazeneca jab . 

Now, this type of risk is harder to articulate. With public health in the heart of the concern, it’s even more challenging to provide clear indication of the risk level.

Experts and scientists up and down the country, and indeed all over the world, have been trying to help the public to understand the risk is ‘low’. The aim is to repair the possible damage to the confidence of the vaccine.

In order to help people to understand and conceptualise it, various experts tap onto the power of analogies to explain the idea that the vaccine is posing a ‘very low risk’. To quote a few here:

Communication can be hindered by conflicting information provided by multiple sources.

The problem also is that in high context societies, analogies are highly nuanced. Especially when one draws an analogy on the basis of superficial similarity.

Using analogies could be ‘risky’.

People ‘struck by lightning’ in one country may be better expressed as ‘hit by a sandstorm’ in another.

Or perhaps in this case, using facts remain the only but unattainable answer? 

Here are some of the stats from a recent research update:

“The clot risk from getting Covid is at least eight times greater than that from Astrazeneca jab, research by Oxford University suggest…”

“The study of half a million Covid patients found that, overall, getting the virus increased the chance of cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT) 100-fold, compare with those without coronavirus…”

“In total, 39 in a million Covid patients suffered the clot, compared with rates of five in a million for those given the Astrazeneca jab and four in a million for those who had Pfizer or Moderna…”

Hard facts and stats they are, but are they enough to clear some of the questions?

Does using data to try to get people to stop worrying about their risk always work?

How to be empathetic enough to communicate concerns?

When stats and facts are not readily available, how creative can we be in our communications?

I also begin to wonder, what will the French, Italians, Spanish, Japanese say in order to convince the public?

What do you think?

Reference: One of the research reports capturing the latest facts and evidence

Donnelly, L; Bodkin, H. 2021. Virus poses bigger risk of clots than AstraZeneca jab, says study. The Daily Telegraph. Online. 16 April (Assessed 20 April 2021)

Note: For credible source of information, always refer to official channels. Such as updates from the official website astrazeneca.com