118: Selling Vaccines to Younger Adults

Julie Scofield, Project Director for the Community COVID Coalition, a project of the CDC Foundation, reports on the results of a months-long social media campaign to convince younger adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine; and Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO’s...

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Julie Scofield, Project Director for the Community COVID Coalition, a project of the CDC Foundation, reports on the results of a months-long social media campaign to convince younger adults to get the COVID-19 vaccine; and Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO’s President-Elect and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, answers a question about vaccine uptake during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington Post and moderated by national health reporter Dan Diamond.

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, February 14th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


Young people are a tough audience when it comes to selling them on the need to get a COVID-19 shot. It's why they've been the focus of national social media campaign since October. Julie Scofield with the CDC Foundation directs the campaign for the Community COVID Coalition. She reports on the success of the effort in today's morning conversation.

Since September of last year, the Community COVID Coalition has been working with community-based organizations to reach unvaccinated people focused on a couple of key populations. How's that going?


Sine the beginning, our project has focused on behavior change, communication, researching, message testing, and creating COVID-19 social media campaigns for use on Facebook and Instagram.

So, since September, we've been partnering with community-based organizations to reach the not-yet-vaccinated with messages that are specifically designed to move them along a continuum from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine acceptance—there are about 60 million vaccine eligible people in the U.S. who have yet to receive their first dose.

So, the project's going really, really well. We first determined our target populations—we're focused on young adults and then 25–39 year old African Americans and Latinos, including Spanish-dominant Latinos. Then, we worked with our research firm, Social Quest, on developing a vaccine message strategy and began testing messages in both English and Spanish that were very quickly turned into social media ads by our digital media firm, Code 3. At the same time, we selected a cohort of CBOs to run these campaigns, to work with us on these campaigns, and we launched our first campaigns in December.

The metrics have been very strong. Our December campaigns were focused on 18–24 year olds—and we estimated a reach of 5.8 million in this population—and our January campaigns are running very strongly in terms of region awareness.


You've also partnered with ASTHO and AIM on this project. How important are those partnerships to the success of the campaign?


Well, Robert, in public health we know that partnerships are the name of the game. The CDC Foundation felt strongly that we needed to partner with ASTHO from the outset and, once we turned our attention to COVID-19 vaccination, partnering with the Association of Immunization Managers—or AIM—was also strategic. These partnerships allow us to extend the reach of this work and make our messages and our research available for use by health departments and immunization programs across the country.


You held a webinar as part of this campaign in January, and another one is coming up here at the end of February. How are you using webinars to advance the goals of the project?


Well, the CDC foundation recognizes the critical role that CBOs play in the COVID-19 response and is working with a very extensive network of CBOs across the country. We found that webinars have been a great way to provide CBOs with information designed to address their needs.

And so, with this in mind, the Coalition hosted a webinar on January 20th—it was titled COVID-19 and Social Media Best Practices to Reach Your Communities. We hosted this webinar in partnership with the Vaccine Equity Cooperative of Health Leads; and during the webinar we heard from a social media expert with great tips for using social media platforms and two bright spot case studies from community-based organizations. Over 1100 people attended the webinar.

And then, we're planning our second one for February 24th; and this webinar, our second webinar, will focus on partnering with health departments and immunization programs, and we hope to include a bit of a forecast on the future for immunization programs. We hope to have that registration information available soon.


You can find links to the campaign website, including social media animations ready to download and other resources, in today's show notes.

Also, we'll update you when we have a link to the next campaign webinar planned for February 24th. That link is coming soon, and we'll pass it along when it's available.


ASTHO president elect, Dr. Anne Zink of Alaska, joined a panel discussion about COVID-19 on Thursday. The livestreamed event was hosted by Dan Diamond, national health reporter for the Washington Post.


Do you think it's still worthwhile to try and encourage unvaccinated people to get the shot, or have we moved beyond a point where that effort is paying off?


Yeah, I really loved that you asked that question, Dan, 'cause I get all the time, "Well, people have made up their mind. They're not making any difference." I mean, Alaska is a much smaller state than New Jersey—you know, we only have about 730,000 people; but you know, I get the report every day and we've got about 2000 people every single week who make the decision to get their very first COVID-19 vaccine. And so, we see people making that decision on a regular basis.

When I'm in the emergency department, I love asking people, "Do you have any questions about the vaccine?" I'm not here to judge their decision to get vaccinated; I'm there to be a resource, to partner with them to make sure that they've got access to credible information about COVID and about vaccine.

And it's amazing how many people, you know, even this far into the pandemic will say, "Yeah, I actually do. I saw these odd questions on Facebook, I saw this really bad outcome on Twitter, I saw this on Instagram. And I'm really scared, and I don't know what this means," and really incredibly rewarding to sit down and talk through that fear and talk about the data, talk about what we know, what we don't know, and allow people to make an individual decision.


You can watch the full panel discussion hosted by the Washington Post using the link in the show notes.


Next week, we wrap up our series of conversations about policy issues ASTHO is watching in the new year. We've covered eight of the top 10 so far; there are two left: mental health and public health authority.

If you missed the others, you can catch up by checking out those interviews published over the last couple of weeks. If you want to read more about all 10, check out the link in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast.


Be sure to join us again tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Dan Diamond

National Health Reporter, Washington Post

Julie Scofield

Project Director, CDC Foundation

Anne Zink MD FACEP

Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska