The start to 2021 was difficult as COVID-19 cases throughout the country we're spiking in January and February as vaccine supply was insufficient to start making a major difference. As spring arrived and the vaccine supply increased, infection rates and hospitalizations settled down and by late May the situation was looking good. States were opening back up and it felt like the ride was over. Wrong.
Like riding a roller coaster, you know the ups and downs aren't over until you get off the ride entirely. Even then, you might be feeling the effects for a while. With COVID-19 cases spiking again in 47 states as I write this blog post in mid-July, it's clear that our terrible ride isn't over yet. In fact, it might last much longer than many of us ever thought was possible.
So, how do we make this situation stop or at least not get worse? Clearly, the answer is increasing the rate of vaccination. The vast majority of people contracting severe cases of COVID-19 right now, with the Delta variant on the rise, are not vaccinated. We have basically reached a situation where almost all people who want to get vaccinated have already done so.
According to the CDC, close to 70% of eligible Americans have received at least one vaccine dose; 56% are fully vaccinated. Some states are doing much worse than that in terms of vaccination (as low as 30%), which is creating significant problems as the highly contagious Delta variant becomes dominant.
Medical experts warn that it will be extremely difficult to combat this virus unless we can get to at least 70%, and possibly up to 85%, of eligible people being vaccinated. If you're following the news or general vaccine discourse on social media, you know that many people are really digging in and some are even saying they will never get the vaccine. So what can we do?
Focus on the 'movable middle'
The best bet right now is to focus on those people who are receptive to getting vaccinated, but just haven't done so due to some type of barrier, fear or circumstance. The right messaging or service offerings can effectively reach those groups and drive change. I was part of a panel discussion hosted by the American Hospital Association and SHSMD last week that discussed a report produced by Kaiser Permanente and the California Testing Task Force that examined what drives attitudes toward vaccines and describes archetypes of vaccine-hesitant individuals.
I encourage all healthcare marketers, communicators and other professionals to watch the AHA/SHSMD webinar and make use of the resources below.
Vaccine communications resources from the American Hospital Association.