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Mayo Clinic teams with dozens of health care providers on pro-vaccination ad campaign

Saying "we can't achieve herd immunity without skeptics receiving the vaccine," nationwide effort will seek out 39% of the public that is uncertain, sometimes dug in against the shots

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Mayo Clinic has partnered with Essentia Health, the Cleveland Clinic, and 57 other health systems in a new ad campaign to encourage vaccination for COVID-19 and to discourage vaccine skepticism and hesitancy. Screen cap from ourshot2savelives.org.
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — "Not since World War II," the voiceover begins, "have all people been called to come together to protect humanity's future."

While the words are spoken, black-and-white newsreel depicts iconic images of shared sacrifice, Greatest Generation footage including the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima, enlistment parades, saluting children and the wartime manufacturing effort.

These images quickly transition to the present day, moreover, drawing comparisons between G.I.s in the Pacific with the shield-wearing faces of health care workers providing vaccinations, and a diverse array of Americans in masks and getting vaccinated.

It's a patriotic montage in a nationwide campaign that launches Tuesday, April 20, one that includes print, digital and social media.

"As health care providers, our calling is to protect people's health," the new pro-vaccination spot continues, "to heal their bodies, and to do no harm ... COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. We encourage you to take it."


The unprecedented, multi-platform ad campaign to encourage vaccination was created by Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, and is supported financially by 58 health care providers from across the country.

"We're asking people to talk to their health care providers if they have questions and then get vaccinated," says Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., Mayo Clinic's president and CEO in a statement. "The vaccine is our strongest asset to end the pandemic, and I urge everyone who is eligible to get whichever vaccine you’re first offered to save lives."

"The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and highly effective and offers our best hope for beating the disease," said Tom Mihaljevic, M.D. , Cleveland Clinic's CEO and president in a statement. "We all want to see a return to our pre-COVID routines, when we can once again gather safely with family and friends. To reach that goal, we must improve vaccination rates to achieve herd immunity. Please sign up today because we are all in this together."

The effort will entail "a robust media buy" according to Molly Biwer, chair of marketing, brand strategy, advertising and creative studio at Mayo Clinic, one pitching "national dailies, national broadcasts, TikTok, Instagram, billboard assets and an outreach that has also received assistance from Google, YouTube and Facebook.

It is only the second time the No. 1 and 2 health care systems in the country have come together to promote a shared message — the first time was to promote mask wearing over the holidays — and it reflects a final test of the pandemic.

Now that the public finally has ease of access to vaccines for COVID-19, attention has turned to the 39% of the public that remains either ambivalent or outright opposed to vaccination.

It's a lot of people.


Study: vaccine skeptics are rural, Republican

If research is correct, the use of health care providers — as opposed to health officials or politicians — to provide a pro-vaccination message deploys a powerful asset of persuasion.

According to an ongoing survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation , 79% of Americans surveyed said they are likely to turn to a health care provider when deciding whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

That's greater trust on the question than the public has placed in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (60%), their family or friends (58%), public health (57%) or spiritual leaders.

"We felt our voices were very important to the conversation, completely apolitical," Biwer said. "To come together as an industry, and to do our part to protect the future of humanity." Biwar said vaccine-hesitant citizens are becoming a primary focus.

"While a lot of people are clamoring to get the vaccine, a significant portion of the population, and hopefully this campaign is going to turn that tide, is unsure, and may need more convincing. We can't achieve herd immunity without skeptics receiving the vaccine."

Among the skeptics, concern over side effects is listed as the No. 1 reason for that hesitancy, according to the Kaiser survey. It is shared by 70% of those who aren't trying to get their shots as soon as possible.

Other concerns include that the effects of the vaccine would be worse than the illness (63%), a fear of required vaccination (63%), and having to miss work for the recovery. Among skeptics polled in the Kaiser report, 39% feared that you could get COVID-19 if you got the vaccine.

A significant portion of Americans say they are certain they will not become vaccinated. Of the 13% of the general population and 21% percent of the rural population who say they definitely will not get vaccinated, less than 10% said they would be swayed by messaging that the vaccines are highly effective.


The percentage of the fully opposed who said they could be swayed by arguments pertaining to the free cost, long period of study of the technology, and potential for long-term harms of COVID-19, dropped down to the mid and very low single digits.

Interestingly, hearing that the vast majority of doctors had received the doses was marked as meaningful to just 3% of those surveyed in this highly skeptical group.

As of late March of this year, the 11,000-member survey found that Republicans surveyed were far more likely to oppose vaccination. GOP respondents who were firmly opposed were recorded at nearly 30%, compared to 9% of independents and 5% of Democrats.

Add in those who are on the fence but not fixed in their view, and 54% or more than half of the GOP-identified participants surveyed said they were not getting vaccinated as soon at the first opportunity.

While rural residents have had more access to the vaccine in the early weeks of the rollout, a third say they will get the shots either only if required (9%), or not at all (21%). That is 10 percentage points higher than suburban residents, and twice that of urban residents.

In other words, with an additional 15% of rural residents who say they are taking a wait-and-see approach, nearly half (45%) of those in small towns and farm country currently remain on the sidelines.

"What this campaign was really targeting is the skeptic adults," Biwar said. "Men and women 18 and older hesitant to receive the vaccine ... We really tried to appeal that receiving the vaccine is an act of caring and compassion for others, for that greater good. We want you to be safe ... and making sure your loved ones around you are safe. Part of that is getting the vaccine, which is an absolute act of caring and compassion."

Paul John Scott is the health reporter for NewsMD and the Rochester Post Bulletin. He is a novelist and was an award-winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
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