With vaccination rates only inching forward slowly, the federal government is trying a new marketing tactic: fear.
In a set of emotional advertisements releasing Wednesday morning, three unvaccinated Covid-19 survivors and an intensive care unit nurse speak about the toll the virus has taken.
It’s a sharp turn from earlier ads, which used positive messages – protecting the community, getting back to normal activities, reuniting with friends – to convince hesitant Americans to roll up their sleeves.
The new ads show in stark terms the real-life consequences of not getting vaccinated.
“When you pair that with optimism and a way to take action – vaccination – to avoid the negative consequences, you can really make a positive impact,” said a senior official with the US Department of Health and Human Services who was involved with the ad campaign.
Public opinion experts praised the advertisements, saying it was time to take a new approach – one that uses the death and misery many Americans are witnessing firsthand.
“Real experiences, more than information, seem to be moving people, and here we have these messages enforcing that real experience,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks public opinion on vaccination.
Kaiser’s recent polling has found that knowing someone who became seriously ill from Covid-19 or died from the virus are among the most powerful factors motivating vaccine hesitant Americans to take a shot.
The ads are part of a $250 million HHS Covid-19 public education campaign.
“We believe these first-person accounts of people who’ve experienced Covid firsthand can really underscore the danger that COVID-19 poses,” the HHS official said. “[It’s] really changing the messenger. We’re letting real people tell their own stories in their own words.”
‘They gave me a five percent chance of living’
The first set of HHS’s Covid-19 vaccination ads debuted in April and were professionally shot and featured heartwarming scenes of friends hugging and children together on sleepovers, with upbeat music playing in the background.
“Go on and live as you want, feel the sunlight on your face,” the singer croons in one ad, as text appears on the screen: “After