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How one GDBHT partner is fighting vaccine fears

Published on:
October 28, 2021

120/80 MKTG has powered the communications of top behavioral health brands and leaders like Headspace Health, Brave Health, Big Health, Cityblock, Papa and more. And now they’re on a new mission: reducing disinformation in the vaccine wars. Many people are talking about the COVID-19 vaccine on social media platforms, but not everything that is posted is true. Not knowing what is true or what is disinformation can lead people to feel anxious about getting the vaccine. In an effort to debunk the myths and establish a trustworthy source, 120/80 MKTG has started a new campaign, “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation.” I sat down with 120/80 MKTG’s spokesperson and writer and director of the campaign, Jon Reiner, and his team to learn more. 

What is “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation”? 

Six infectious disease doctors and nurses – including in-demand experts Dr. Carlos del Rio and Dr. Celine Gounder – are speaking up in a public health campaign, “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation,” targeting the 14 states with the lowest vaccine rates in order to persuade people to get vaccinated. At this juncture in our two-month campaign, the results are encouraging with more than 1M impressions, 400,000 views and 2,500 visitor clicks to find out where to get a vaccine.

Overcoming COVID-19 vaccine disinformation requires going into the belly of the beast —Facebook, YouTube and other social channels. Launched on September 1st, “Just The Facts on Vax” is being streamed on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn as a short-form twenty-episode series, each of which addresses a specific vaccine-disinformation myth, such as “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine can harm my ability to get pregnant.” The campaign was born out of an urgency to win the information battle and help end the public health crisis by recruiting and providing a platform for medical experts whose knowledge and frontline experience would shift attention to where it belonged – on the facts.

Which medical experts have been featured so far and what are some of the myths they addressed?

Several of the United States’ top epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, OBGYNs, nurse practitioners and public health officials have now presented “The Facts”:

  1. Dr. Celine Gounder, Infectious Disease Specialist & Epidemiologist, NYU & Bellevue Hospital
  2. Dr. Carlos del Rio, Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology & Public Health, Emory University
  3. Dr. Mati Hlatshway Davis, Infectious Diseases Physician, John Cochran VA Medical Center, Director of the Department of Health, City of St. Louis, MO
  4. Dr. Stephanie Gaw, Assistant Professor UCSF, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, OBGYN & Reproductive Sciences, Infectious Disease Specialist
  5. Dr. Blima Marcus, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Adjunct Professor & Public Health Advocate in the Ultra-Orthodox Community
  6. Dr. Jill Jim, Epidemiologist & Executive Director, Navajo Department of Health

Disinformation topics include: 

  • “The COVID-19 vaccine wasn’t adequately tested.”
  • “If the Polio vaccine took decades to develop, how was the COVID-19 vaccine developed in just one year?”  
  • “Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will make me infertile.”
  • “The vaccine will alter my DNA.”  
  • “If you’ve already had COVID-19, you’re protected from getting the virus again.”
  • “If you’re young and healthy, your immunity protects you from the virus.”
  • “Everyone has access to the vaccine.”
  • “The vaccine violates religious dietary laws.”

Why did 120/80 MKTG start this campaign?

“Just The Facts On Vax” was created and self-funded by 120/80 MKTG as a public health initiative to increase vaccinations, differentiated from other campaigns by its utilization of medical experts rather than celebrities and its reliance on science.

As health communications professionals, it was agonizing to witness COVID-19 vaccination rates stall because of public trust sabotaged by disinformation. Facebook and YouTube, in particular, had dithered, giving visibility to conspiracy theories undermining the science so essential to combating ignorance. For me, Facebook’s silence on harboring the ‘Disinformation Dozen’ was a galvanizing moment. Our public health crisis was losing an information battle, and it demanded a response that would go straight to the belly of the beast. 

“Just The Facts On Vax” has a single objective — to get more people vaccinated. So far, the campaign’s challenge to the disinformation has moved more than 2000 people to search where they can get vaccinated. If even one person’s life is saved because they listened to the experts and got vaccinated, then that’s why we are doing this.  We hope others will join us.

How does anxiety play a role in the decision process of getting the vaccine?

Just as disinformation can cause confusion and the anxiety it generates, fact-based information can have the opposite effect, giving people a sense of confidence to make a reasoned decision. To that end, the source matters. In the case of the #JustTheFactsOnVax campaign, we believed it was essential to have leading infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists, OB GYNs, and public health physicians be the sources of fact-based information, who would appeal to people’s reason. Episode #19, for instance, responds to fears that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is more painful than other vaccinations. That episode’s speaker, Dr. Carlos del Rio, addresses the issue in both scientific and experiential terms, stating that COVID-19 the vaccine does not hurt more than getting a seasonal flu shot.

Find out more and share the “Just the Facts on Vax: Inoculating Against Disinformation” campaign on social media: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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