New national vaccine advertising campaign needed: RACGP

Matt Woodley

29/06/2021 3:45:23 PM

The college has called on the Federal Government to urgently fill an information vacuum that is being taken advantage of by anti-vaxxers.

Dr Nick Coatsworth.
The RACGP has said it takes more than trusted medical professionals speaking to the camera to reach people who are vaccine hesitant. (Image: Department of Health)

National targeted messaging and advertising for specific cohorts is needed to clear up misinformation and encourage more eligible people to get vaccinated, according to the RACGP.
In a recent member survey conducted by the college earlier this month, 92% of respondents said improved ‘public awareness and education’ is needed for the rollout of mRNA vaccines to general practice, based on their experiences with the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout.
That same survey revealed that more than half of respondents considered the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Australia had been ‘somewhat ineffective’ or ‘very ineffective’ to date, and RACGP President Dr Karen Price said that the survey results should act as a strong wakeup call.
‘GPs on the frontline delivering these vaccines see that more action is needed,’ she said.
‘This country urgently needs a comprehensive, well-targeted, nationwide campaign to boost vaccine confidence in the community.
‘Unless our campaign is large-scale and effective, negative vaccination commentary and conspiracy theories will have a far greater impact on vaccination rates than should be the case.
‘We must reach everyone, so the campaign must be carefully tailored so it speaks to different groups of people based on their circumstances and needs.’
The Federal Government’s current advertising campaigns have been criticised for being ‘unlikely to do anything other than inform’ at a time when COVID vaccine hesitancy is peaking in Australia following highly-publicised blood clot concerns related to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘Informing is not enough. We need high emotion, designed to trigger action. We need advertising to reinstate the sense of collective that we mastered last year,’ renowned advertising expert Russel Howcroft wrote recently in The Age.
‘We were “all in this together” at the beginning of COVID-19 and we need to be “all in this together” in order to end it. We need to be ready to mobilise in droves, as soon as our major vaccine supply issues are overcome.’
In the wake of the most recent changed recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), Burnet Institute Epidemiologist Professor Mike Toole also told newsGP much clearer communication is needed about the benefits of the vaccines versus the risks.
‘The only ad I ever see is Dr Nick Coatsworth with a stethoscope around his neck just saying, “Trust the Government, get vaccinated”. I don’t think that is really going to persuade anyone who’s hesitant – there’s no specificity about which vaccine,’ he said.
‘The message is that both vaccines, including AstraZeneca, will prevent you from ending up in an ICU if you get infected.’
Meanwhile, Dr Price said Australia cannot afford to wait until imported supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines arrive before ramping up the campaign, as it will risk more people becoming hesitant in the interim.
‘We need to clear up the confusion and build confidence in the vaccine now so we can get jabs in arms quickly as supply increases. This job is urgent, we need to get the population vaccinated as fast as we can to protect the community,’ she said.
‘The campaign must include targeted advertisements and promotional materials for GPs to have conversations with all Australians. For example, younger women may have specific questions about pregnancy or fertility, so the campaign needs specific information that will help them.
‘Trusted medical professionals in lab coats speaking to [the] camera can be useful, but we need to do more to cut through to those who are hesitant. If we can get the right kind of creative people thinking outside the box and coming up with fresh ideas that cut through and make a measurable impact on all the different cohorts that will make a real difference.’
Dr Price said that clearing up community confusion and uncertainty is currently more important than ever, and that a diverse range of spokespeople from different backgrounds are needed on a variety of communication channels to ensure the message reaches as many people as possible.
‘A key priority for the campaign must be addressing perceptions of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It is not an inferior vaccine; it is a safe vaccine and if you are eligible to receive it, you should do so right away,’ she said.
‘As a practising GP, I am listening to some of my patients well into their 70s or older tell me that they are going to wait. We need to explain to them that this is a dangerous approach because this age group has a one in 10 chance of dying if they contract COVID-19.
‘In contrast, the chances of contracting the rare clotting syndrome associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine is one in the tens of thousands.
‘This is a public health emergency of a lifetime. The pandemic is not over … now is the time for the Government to step up and work harder to communicate to Australians why delaying or avoiding getting the vaccine is so much riskier than getting vaccinated.
‘We are now in the winter months and the situation is only going to get riskier. The time to act is now.’
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Dr Roger Leland Skierka   30/06/2021 6:42:28 AM

I have several patients who ask a few questions - 1. if they have the shots are they guaranteed not to contract the novel coronavirus (all strains)? 2. if they have the shots are they exempt from wearing masks, from lockdowns and from quarantine? 3. if they do have the shots and do contract one of the strains of the novel coronavirus, can they still transmit the virus to others? 4. if they test positive, are the exempt from quarantine since they have had the shots? 5. will there be yearly injections? These are just a few of the frequent questions I have heard - and if they can still contract and transmit the virus, and restrictions remain despite the injections, why have injections with known and unpredictable side effects including death? "Protect the community" doesn't make sense if the injections don't actually prevent transmission. Thank you

Dr Sebastien Laflamme   30/06/2021 8:43:58 AM

The vaccine media campaign have been horrific. Why not showing people in ICU, on ventilators, young and elderly, pregnant woman, family torn apart because unable to see each other for over 2 years, carer unable top hold hands of their love ones, snap lock downs causing havocs and financial stress, etc. We have to show the reality and the urgency of getting vaccinated.

Dr Chiara Mary Curnow   30/06/2021 10:25:44 AM

Lets campaign fellow RACGP colleagues- how can we start filming and airing a suitable campaign. There needs to be clear facts and needs to be emotive