The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying “infodemic” lend new urgency to the study and practice of risk communication. It is particularly crucial to effectively communicate information to vulnerable groups, which is to say those that are especially susceptible to harm: this includes persons with underlying health conditions or disabilities, elderly people, the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and ethnic and linguistic minorities, among others. This task, however, is complicated by the facts that these groups are often difficult for risk communicators to reach and sometimes vulnerable to disinformation as well as to disease.
In this chapter, the authors highlight the role of risk communication in COVID-19 governance, before moving onto to examine the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) as an appropriate tool for assessing the impact of individual- and group-level vulnerabilities on information channel access and preference, perceptions of threats, and assessments of risks and protective behaviours. Particular attention is given to the way vulnerabilities intersect to aggravate both negative health outcomes and information deficits. The chapter closes by advocating empirically-grounded risk communication strategies that take social complexity and the lived experiences of vulnerable groups into clear and intentional account.