Trump Administration launches last-ditch effort to educate public about COVID-19 vaccine

President Donald Trump at podium speaking about vaccines
Photo via GPA Photo Archive/Flickr (Public Domain)

A coronavirus vaccine has arrived—but it won’t help if 40% of Americans aren’t on board with taking it. To combat low public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, the Trump administration is setting out to create a vaccine education campaign.

The campaign is expected to become active in January 2021. The campaign—in the form of social media, print, television, and radio advertising—is the second iteration of the administration’s efforts to sway the “movable middle.” These are the people who are unsure about receiving the vaccine but may be persuaded to take it.

The first version of the Trump administration’s Building Vaccine Confidence Campaign, which included celebrities such as Billy Ray Cyrus and Dennis Quaid, was delayed by six weeks for review. The review was prompted by Health Secretary Alex M. Azar, following an inquiry by House Democrats. This inquiry alleged that the first version of the campaign amounted to “taxpayer-funded reelection propaganda.”

Under a contract with Fors Marsh Group, the federal government is funding the campaign with $250 million. It faces a challenge, due to high levels of distrust surrounding the vaccine and its quick production time. Around 21% of Americans are certain they will not be receiving the vaccine, according to the New York Times

The campaign has become necessary after months of protest regarding the vaccine, along with the spread of false information discrediting scientists and public health officials. For example, the idea that the federal government is planning to use the vaccine to implant chips to track or otherwise control American citizens has circulated broadly on social media. 

Poll data also shows a willingness to receive the vaccine differing along party lines— 69% of respondents who identified as Democrat said they were willing to receive the vaccine, compared to 50% of Republicans

The plan will follow three tiers, with the first tier focusing on engagement at the national level for the “movable middle.” The second tier will focus on groups that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. That includes people with preexisting conditions, healthcare workers, Black Americans, Indigenous Americans, American Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans, according to the Hill.

The third tier of the campaign is ambiguously identified as “urgent response.” The Hill asserts this tier may include use of reserve resources to respond to the outbreak.

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Sources: The New York Times, The Hill, Business Insider, NPR

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