Why Healthcare Marketers Will Continue To Play A Vital Role In The Vaccine Rollout
There’s light on the horizon.
After a stumbling start, the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines has accelerated in recent weeks. At the time of writing, there are 139 million people (41.9% of the total population) fully inoculated. Public figures from Michelle Obama to Dolly Parton have taken to social media to share photos of themselves getting their shots, much like Elvis Presley shared his polio inoculation with the world more than half a century ago.
And yet, so much work remains. A recent University of California, Davis study revealed that one-third of adults in the U.S. are still either unlikely or hesitant to receive the vaccine. There are as many entities responsible for changing this resistance: the federal and state government, healthcare practitioners, public health advocacy groups and the legitimate press. Healthcare marketers, too, play a vitally important role in this life-or-death mission.
One could argue that marketers have one of the most critical jobs on the planet at this moment. They need to ensure that the public receives the most accurate, timely messaging around vaccine safety, all while battling misinformation. Accurately targeting segments of the American population, pharma marketers can deliver relevant, resonant messages in order to persuade more people to get vaccinated while appealing to different people’s concerns.
With so much of the public still riding the fence, marketers must be empathetic while keeping steadfast to their focus of educating and informing populations with concerns. Chief among those is that there have been clear inequalities in the healthcare system for far too long, especially among minority communities. This disparity has created less access to quality healthcare for those who desperately need it and more skepticism toward those who provide healthcare and messages about wellness. That is a damning indictment of our society and something healthcare marketers have a responsibility to help repair. Never has there been a more apparent opportunity to do so than around the Covid-19 vaccines. It is not just a matter of public health but also one of social responsibility.
There were initial hiccups regarding the vaccines’ availability and distribution, which did not help reassure an ambivalent public. With eligibility opening up, progress is happening. But confusion persists. Marketers need to cut through the noise to get to the facts. This effort requires knowing where to go for the most reliable data to stay on top of every detail — not unlike editors in a newsroom — as events around the vaccines are unpredictable and ever-changing. Marketers must remain poised to snap into action at any moment, learning the latest information and passing it on to the public.
Despite the efforts of marketers, the healthcare community and the mainstream media, the wall of misinformation often seems impenetrable. Specific media channels and personalities — ignoring all scientific evidence to the contrary — continue to fortify doubt about the vaccines. What’s more, since the virus emerged more than a year ago, our government has done little in the way of providing air cover against those threats.
It all means that marketers have had to work — and must continue to work — that much harder to get out the truth.
A massive, highly organized and well-financed promotional effort is already well underway. The Department of Health and Human Services has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars toward educating the public. Meanwhile, the COVID Collaborative, spearheaded by the Ad Council and encompassing dozens of companies and institutions — including the NAACP, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Walmart — is in the midst of a $50 million educational effort around the vaccines that to date has notched half a billion dollars in donated media.
The work is not easy. But in the war against Covid-19, we must deploy every possible defense. And marketers are right on the frontlines.