In December 2020 and January 2021, when vaccine efforts were getting underway in earnest, our newsroom embarked on an ambitious campaign to inform our readers, dispel myths, and get timely, accurate, and actionable information about vaccinations into the hands of our readers and neighbors who needed it most.
At the center of our campaign was an exhaustive vaccination guide, which we first published in January 2021 — an easy-to-navigate online document that we continue to update, providing answers to critical questions about the vaccine: Who’s eligible, how to find appointments in our city, how to volunteer, and much more.
But we knew that information about vaccines and how to get them was changing rapidly and that not everyone in Oakland who needed the information would be coming to our website to find answers. That’s why, simultaneously publishing our guide, we launched a text messaging service to reach a broader cross-section of our city and respond in real-time to their questions and concerns about the vaccine. To get the word out, we plastered 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper flyers all over town, with a focus on those areas of the East Oakland flatlands that have been hardest by the pandemic, with information about how to sign up for the text service and a QR code to access our digital vaccine guide.
As journalists, we also knew that ongoing reporting, coupled with storytelling, about the virus and vaccines would be a key component of our campaign. So we’ve complemented our guide and texting service consistently with articles about Oakland’s vaccine rollout, and live-streamed Q&A sessions with local public health officials, alongside profiles and first-person narratives of everyday Oaklanders navigating the pandemic and vaccination process. We’ve also continued to point our audience to one of the first products we developed as a newsroom in the early days of the pandemic to protect our communities: a guide to free COVID-19 testing sites in Oakland.