17: New Vaccine Messaging

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer, questions vaccine misinformation; Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, discusses vaccine safety on KNX NewsRadio, Los Angeles; Rhea Farberman, Director of Strategic Communications...

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Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi’s State Health Officer, questions vaccine misinformation; Dr. Marcus Plescia, ASTHO’s Chief Medical Officer, discusses vaccine safety on KNX NewsRadio, Los Angeles; Rhea Farberman, Director of Strategic Communications and Policy Research at the Trust for America’s Health, shares new messaging and tools to explain the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine; and ASTHO wins awards for its work to support members.

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Webpage: Resource – FDA approval messaging and outreach tools

Fact sheet: Communicating about FDA approval to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines

ASTHO’s efforts supporting state and territorial health leaders recognized with four national awards

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This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, September 1st, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials


Today, frustration with bad or misleading vaccine information posted online causing people to refuse lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs leads Mississippi's public health effort. He spoke about the problem while visiting a field hospital at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.


We've gotten over a million Mississippians vaccinated, but too many people are getting information from wrong sources.

I'm still baffled why anyone would think some random source on Facebook is better than the entire army of positions in healthcare systems, doctors and nurses, researchers who all want to do is end this dang pandemic.

These Facebook and conspiratorialist are going to spread and run and have no accountability to the people who are dying, and we're here picking up the mess.



Talking about vaccine safety and the holdouts on KNX News Radio in Los Angeles, ASTHO chief medical officer Dr. Marcus Plescia delivered the message again.


This is an incredibly safe vaccine—I mean, it's amazing how it holds up to other vaccines that we've seen.

But I think it's just a matter of staying after people and helping them understand that.



The Pfizer vaccine received the FDA's full approval last week, but that's still not enough for some to get vaccinated.

Rhea Farberman is the director of strategic communications and policy research at the Trust for America's Health. She talks about new messaging and tools available to help states and territories explain the FDA decision.

It's today's morning conversation.

Let's talk about the poll results and the messaging, because that's always very helpful for departments that are trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing.

Can you summarize the latest findings that were reported in this kit by the de Beaumont foundation?


So, we're really trying to understand what messages, what events, will move people from unvaccinated to vaccinated.

So, I think that the major takeaway from the data is that we do have an opportunity here, that local departments do have an opportunity to help people move from unvaccinated to vaccinated. But it also wasn't a home run. We still have a lot of work to do.

Let me give you some examples of why I say it wasn't a home run. It's not a magic wand, but it is an opportunity.

27% of those polled said that the FDA approval what makes them more confident in the safety of the vaccine—that's an opportunity. However, we were disappointed to learn that 54% of those polled said that it didn't have any impact on their thinking one way or the other.

But let's go back to that 27%. If we can move 27% of people who are now unvaccinated, get them vaccinated, that's going to be an important move of the needle, so we need to focus there.

A bright spot in the data is that amongst parents, two-thirds said that full approval would make them more confident about having their children vaccinated, so there's going to be an important opportunity once the approval comes through for younger children.

And the data is summarized in a two-page document that's on our website. It's really fascinating if people want to take a look at that, the summary of the full data.


And we'll have that link in today's show notes.

Why is it important—wrapping up here—to refresh the talking points anytime news like this happen?


Well, you've really hit the nail on the head about something that's a very important service that we're trying to provide.

You know, look, we recognize that anytime COVID news breaks, anytime the health guidance changes, the public is going to have question. And, therefore, local public health departments are going to be inundated with questions on email and media interviews and in public forums and meetings before school boards or community councils. “Why is the guidance changing,” people want to know, “why did you say this one time and something new now?”

So, what we try to do is—with speed, but also with accuracy, and in language that the public will understand and resonate with—help local departments be prepared to answer those tough questions.

We know the public's going to have questions. We anticipate what those questions are likely to be and we provide suggested responses for local departments with the guidance that the local department should always try to insert the local data or talk about what's happening at the grassroots in their community.

So, use our messaging, but use it to tailor in ways that really works in your community.



Finally this morning, ASTHO wins several national awards for its work to support its members: the American Society of Association Executives recognizes its work to secure COVID-19 emergency supplemental funding; CEO Mike Fraser wins the Frontline Public Health Award from the Alliance for Health Policy; ASTHO's Insights and Inspiration series gets a Profiles of Excellence Award from the American Association of Medical Society Executives; and a television PSA encouraging people to wear a mask takes gold and silver in competitions hosted by the American Advertising Federation.


Visit the show notes for a link to the new vaccine messaging and everything else mentioned today.


Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google assistant.

And if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a review.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.

Rhea Farberman

Director of Strategic Communications and Policy Research, Trust for America’s Health

Thomas Dobbs MD MPH

State Health Officer, Mississippi Department of Health

Marcus Plescia MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer, ASTHO