Four students from the University of California, Pennsylvania designed a marketing campaign to encourage college-aged students to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The students – Divonne Franklin, Larry Wiles, Susan Mazanetz and Yamna Boukaabar – participated in a 10-week summer scholarship that trained them in science communication regarding COVID-19, and on Tuesday they shared their research findings on vaccine hesitation.
Their goal was to find out why people are reluctant to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and then develop an effective marketing strategy to increase vaccination rates.
They also played a role in engaging compassionately with those who are reluctant to get vaccinated.
“What we can take away (from our research) is that community initiatives are going to help increase immunization rates,” Franklin said.
Under the direction of Dr. Michelle Valkanas, assistant professor of microbiology at Cal U, and Dr. Kate Carter, of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Fla., The students studied trends in vaccination rates across Pennsylvania. , looking specifically at the five counties with the highest vaccination rates in July and the five counties with the lowest vaccination rates.
Their research showed that in the five counties with the highest immunization rates, community awareness campaigns enabled more people to get immunized.
“There was quite a community effort, like pharmacies and hospitals paired with churches to really get information about the vaccine and COVID-19. It really helped people get vaccinated, ”Wiles said. “We have found the opposite in the last five counties. There really was no event other than the vaccination sites set up in the counties.
Other factors that led to the increase in immunization rates were the availability of information and home vaccinations for the elderly and disabled.
“The advertising really worked. As soon as you logged into the five major county newspaper websites, county Facebook sites, or city Facebook sites, you immediately received information about COVID-19 and the vaccine, and how safe and effective it was. , and the opposite was true for the last five. You haven’t found or seen any information about COVID or the vaccine, ”Wiles said.
A surprising finding, according to the group, is that in Pennsylvania, unlike other states, political affiliation does not appear to influence vaccination rates.
Franklin said she and her research team determined it was important to emphasize community and inclusiveness in advertising aimed at improving COVID-19 vaccination rates.
“Our favorite ads were community ads that show we’re all in the same boat, we all need each other,” she said. “I think when you show a genuine concern for others it will have a more positive impact… the main goal is to include more people in the ads. Throwing a lot of information at someone can transform someone; it can be overwhelming.
The ads – created to target college-aged students – were designed to be relatable and light, and include relevant information, such as whether vaccines are safe and effective, and where they are available.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, 52% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 are fully vaccinated.
“And we have to look at people as people, not numbers, not just another unvaccinated person that we need to get vaccinated,” Franklin said. “We have to understand your audience, understand what they’re thinking, how they’re thinking, and understand what influences their specific hesitations, and then from there we can develop targeted approaches to communicate science and information. “
According to the CDC, 68.6% of Pennsylvanians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the state ranks 19th in the United States in percentage of vaccines administered.