BERNARD COLUMN: Getting the unvaccinated masses to take action

Published 9:30 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

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By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired corporate executive

We have not done a very good job of getting Americans vaccinated, especially in red states. To get the epidemic under control, we must achieve herd immunity, defined as 70%+ of a state’s total population being fully vaccinated. We have been able to achieve this goal with only one age group, seniors (84%). For those 12 and up, it’s only 66%. When children (newborn through 11) are included, we have only 56% fully vaccinated. Obviously, a vaccine for children is a priority. But what about the 34% of those Americans age 12 and over who are not vaccinated?  Covid-19 is obviously a major national public health problem. But the usual processes (such as mandating shots for all students) don’t seem to be operating effectively to get these Americans immunized. What we need is a fresh marketing approach.

First, we must identify exactly who is not getting the shots. Then, we must identify new methods of reaching them.

Nationally, it is the more conservative states whose citizens are refraining. The dozen worst immunization states for children 12-17 and adults 18-64 are all red. Using Georgia as a point of comparison, we are 16th worst for 12-17 and 15th worst for 18-64. All of the states which ranked lower than Georgia were red, except the swing state of Michigan. And to a large extent these red states are also anti-mandate. So, how do we get folks in these more conservative states to get the shot?

One way to motivate the unvaccinated is by getting “influencers” to advocate that they do so. Certain professions are looked upon more favorably by the American public. Healthcare professions are viewed very positively regarding honesty and ethics. Nurses are at the top of the list with 89% very high/high, then MDs at 77% and pharmacists at 71%.

Grade school teachers are also highly regarded by 75% of those surveyed. Then much further down come police (52%), judges (43%), clergy (39%), followed by nine other occupations in the survey.

I have seen no ads at all by the Georgia Medical Association advocating vaccinations. The same for the nurses, pharmacists and hospital associations. And police unions have also been quiet, as have the teacher’s groups.

If money is the issue … and it very often is … the Federal government should be the primary funding source for this marketing campaign, followed by state and local governments. Thus far, Biden’s administration has dropped the ball in this area.

Further, why can’t corporate giants like Amazon or Walmart fund these efforts? The expense to them is well worth it given the immense public relations returns. 

It should be noted that of the 15 categories of professions listed in the poll, Congressmen are ranked at the absolute bottom. They are rated below car salespeople, with only 8% of Americans rating them very high/high regarding honesty and ethics. So, even when state and local politicians give lip service to getting vaccinated, it may not have the desired effect, especially if their endorsement is modified by trite phrases such as “I’m against mandates, but…”, as their endorsements often are in states like Georgia.

The one exception is Trump and the GOP base, which seems to blindly follow its fearless leader anywhere. Trump continues to receive extremely high ratings from these right-wing citizens. In fact, despite all we now know of Trump’s hijinks during his term of office, only 32% of GOP voters (and only 24% of GOP conservatives) want him out of Republican politics, according to   Pew Research poll.

Before buying into the argument that the rise in cases and deaths is due to Biden alone, think about how Trump totally botched our national Covid response (with the exception of private vaccine development). And he continues to be a hinderance versus an asset.

According to one source, Trump supporters are much more likely to be unvaccinated. If Trump came out strongly and repeatedly stating to his supporters that either you will get vaccinated ASAP or you will definitely get Covid… and it may put you in a hospital or kill you… it would make a big difference among conservatives. If he would disavow all of the quack Covid treatment remedies, like chloroquine and ivermectin, it would also motivate some of his supporters to get vaccinated. But Trump only cares about retaining the support of the base, not about doing what is best for them.