A Los Angeles entrepreneur is seeking to change the minds of the roughly 30% of Americans who are refusing COVID-19 vaccines with a new public-service announcement campaign, using real people who have been severely ill or lost loved ones to the pandemic.
Explains Frank Kilpatrick, the entrepreneur:
“‘Many people just aren’t moved by data. If facts and figures moved us to change our thinking and behavior, we’d all be slender, healthy and wealthy. We’d eat right, exercise and not smoke.’”
Kilpatrick, who heads the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Ribbons for Research, has recorded a series of testimonials as part of his “Shoulda Got the Shot” campaign, which aims to be more effective in winning over the vaccine-resistant than the current science- and (critics say) shame-based approach, which does not appear to be working.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that just 53.9% of the overall U.S. population is fully inoculated, meaning they have had two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer
But with deaths now averaging 1,827 a day, according to a New York Times tracker, the most since March, the vaccine program is more urgent than ever.
Most of the 172,404 average daily new cases, the 100,087 daily hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people, and the vaccines have proved highly effective in preventing serious illness and death. Media reports of patients regretting their decisions not to get vaccinated as they lie gravely ill in intensive care have proliferated in recent months.
“Humans are emotional creatures,” said Kilpatrick, the founder of Healthcare Communications Group and a singer and songwriter. “While we tell ourselves that we base our life choices on facts, there’s no getting away from the truth that around 80% of our decisions are made from the heart, and 20% with the mind. Connect data to something people both feel and think about, and they will act.”
The campaign includes TV and radio spots.
“We’re aiming this campaign at various underserved populations: politically polarized, lower income, minority, and rural audiences,” Kilpatrick explained. “And, as noted, we developed a social-media program aimed at younger ‘party hardy’ populations who may feel invincible to infection.”
The campaign is deliberately nonpolitical, and does not aim to lecture its audience or win it over with scientific arguments.
“These testimonials are raw and emotional and real. Viewers are more likely to trust these real people in a way that they’d never trust a politician or scientist. These are people who look and sound like them,” said Kilpatrick.
His overall goal is to save lives and help the U.S. achieve so-called herd immunity, the point at which the virus no longer has sufficient hosts to keep spreading. “And, with the delta variant raging, and the potentially more virulent mu variant providing increasing concern, we cannot afford to wait,” he said.