Background: Living with MS has been particularly challenging during the pandemic; from the emotional and physical toll, to fears about catching the virus, questions about whether MS creates higher risk of more severe symptoms to concerns about getting vaccinated while on MS treatment.
Objectives: Understand specific concerns about living with MS during the pandemic and ascertain whether content developed specifically to address these concerns would allay fears and prompt higher likelihood of getting vaccinated.
Methods: A two-pronged approach was used. First, a baseline anonymous survey was conducted in February 2021 with 872 members of MyMSTeam, a social network of over 165,000 people diagnosed with MS. A video and article were created in partnership with a neurologist to educate members about COVID-19 and vaccine safety addressing the specific concerns of patients with MS. A second survey was then administered to 390 members, of which 159 viewed the video/article, to gauge extent to which concerns were allayed, whether there were lingering questions and whether concerns differed based on whether or not members viewed the content.
Results: In the baseline study, 33% indicated their condition had gotten worse during the pandemic. Triggers included fatigue (71%), depression/anxiety (67%), stress (63%), feeling isolated (56%) or financial worries (30%). Top concerns included whether it would be safe to get vaccinated (56%) and whether the vaccine would worsen MS symptoms (61%). In the post study, 94% who viewed the video or article felt the content addressed their specific concerns. Members viewing the content were 25% more likely to plan to get the vaccination (84%, versus 68% who did not view the content). 64% who viewed the content and had not yet spoken with their doctor about the vaccine planned to do so after viewing the content. Members viewing the content were also 60% less likely to have lingering questions or concerns than those who did not (19% versus 33%).
Conclusions: Listening to the specific concerns of MS patients and creating content in easy-to-understand language can create better outcomes for patients, including getting them over hurdles of getting vaccinated. This same approach can help assuage concerns about other issues such as getting on/staying on a treatment or other outcome improving activities.