To explain COVID-19 vaccinations, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is speaking plain language

The vaccine is a game-changer – and so is the way it’s communicated. That’s why the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is using a language everyone understands, and picked Supertext as its partner in administering the information.

The whole world has been holding its breath for this moment: the vaccine for COVID-19 is here. Yet many people find this a complex medical topic full of uncertainty. It’s sensitive and personal too. How can you fully inform one person about it – let alone a whole nation? The Zurich-based agency Rod began working on answering this question at the end of 2020, after taking care of the FOPH’s campaign about new coronavirus rules in the spring.

The COVID-19 vaccine information campaign’s main concern now was providing transparent and comprehensible information so that people of any age group or education level could make an informed decision about vaccination. In order for this to work, the FOPH needed straightforward language that could reach the entire populace. Ivory tower jargon wouldn’t cut it.

How do you make a text understandable?

Supertext worked with Rod to cut texts down to bare bones. Patient information, leaflets and checklists – they all needed to be written so that they were clear for the general public, not just medical professionals. They needed to be written in plain language.

Qualified specialists checked texts and rewrote them according to fixed rules. Medical jargon, long sentences and complex formulations all had to go. The texts had to correspond to an intermediate level of language knowledge (B1), which 95% of the world’s population understands.

“We wanted the information campaign to replace uncertainties about the vaccine with trust in it. Patients need to feel well-informed and know exactly where they stand. We achieved this with plain language.”

Tiffany Lüthi, Head of Consulting at Rod Kommunikation AG

Just a spoonful of information helps the medicine go down

Supertext put together an expert team of plain language specialists to edit the texts about the COVID-19 vaccine. They shortened sentences, switched sections from passive to active voice and explained specialized terms. Keywords and short paragraphs provided a clear overview. The team also ensured that the text remained legally and medically correct in its simplified form.

Supertext also translated information about the vaccine into French and Italian. The result: relevant and clear information about vaccination that everyone can understand.

FOPH vaccination information

Brochure and cover image via FOPH

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