A1 Journal article (refereed)
Health literacy as a social vaccine in the COVID-19 pandemic (2023)

Okan, O., Messer, M., Levin-Zamir, D., Paakkari, L., & Sørensen, K. (2023). Health literacy as a social vaccine in the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Promotion International, 38(4), Article daab197. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daab197

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsOkan, Orkan; Messer, Melanie; Levin-Zamir, Diane; Paakkari, Leena; Sørensen, Kristine

Journal or seriesHealth Promotion International



Publication year2023

Publication date12/01/2022


Issue number4

Article numberdaab197

PublisherOxford University Press (OUP)

Publication countryUnited Kingdom

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessNot open

Publication channel open access

Publication is parallel publishedhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8807235/


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.

KeywordspandemicsCOVID-19health promotionhealth educationhealth literacy

Free keywordshealth literacy; social vaccine; COVID-19; infodemic; non-pharmaceutical intervention

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2022

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-03-04 at 17:55