Oxford, AstraZeneca Boost Transparency During COVID Crisis

The world was waiting. Oxford University and its partners at AstraZeneca were under unprecedented pressure to develop and deliver life-saving vaccines against COVID-19 in record time.

A crisis broke out shortly after the first doses were administered earlier this year. There were incidents, albeit isolated, of patients complaining of blood clots and bleeding after receiving their shots. Yet, social media and media storms ensued.

James Colman, head of public affairs at Oxford University, made an unusual choice. Instead of reducing access to information, he went the other way.

University communicators made available more information about the situation. They encouraged media interviews. Unusually, especially in academia, Oxford focused on access and telling personal stories of those involved.

“If people can see it, they can see the people [and processes] behind [what we’re doing]. There are human stories behind what we’re attempting to achieve,” Colman told me.


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