How social marketing can inform COVID-19 vaccination strategies

Anh-Dai Lu
6 min readMay 8, 2021

The White House recently announced a goal for 70% of the U.S. adult population to have one vaccine shot and 160 million U.S. adults to be fully vaccinated by July 4th in the next phase of the vaccination campaign. However, according to Kaiser Family Foundation — a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues and the U.S. role in global health policy — the US is close to the tipping point where demand for rather than supply of vaccines is now the main challenge. Data also support the view that vaccination rates are slowing down. Experts now believe that the virus will most likely remain a threat for many years to come, but how big a threat will depend on how much of the population will be vaccinated.

Gaining target audience insights

If the vaccination campaign thus far has taken a mass-marketing or undifferentiated marketing approach by which the same strategy was applied to reach and influence as many “ready, willing, and able” people as possible, the next phase might require different strategies for different audiences. The Biden Administration has in fact promised additional support for community-based organizations as well as states to educate local communities about the vaccine. Adopted by the SAGE Working Group, the concept of vaccine hesitancy is defined as “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services.” The Working Group classifies factors that can influence hesitancy into 3 categories: 1) contextual influences (e.g., politics/policies); 2) individual and group influences (e.g., personal, family and friends’ experience with vaccination, beliefs, attitudes about health and prevention); 3) specific issues directly related to vaccine or vaccination (e.g., design of vaccination program/mode of delivery).

While many components of the next phase of the vaccination campaign will be about making access to vaccinations more convenient, experts believe that root cause of the hesitancy needs to be addressed, particularly given a flood of disinformation on the internet about the vaccine. Social marketing campaigns are usually associated with three types of objectives: behavior, knowledge, and belief[i] . To address hesitancy the campaign would need to impact changes in knowledge and belief. Knowledge objectives…

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Anh-Dai Lu
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Sharing views & thoughts about social challenges and approaches to addressing them.