New Zealand needs to get vaccinated now to beat Delta - and that's why NZME has launched The 90% Project. We want to help 90 per cent of Kiwis to get vaccinated to save lives and reopen our country to the world.
Here, Rod Jackson, professor of Epidemiology at Auckland University, adman Paul Catmur and brand and communications strategist David Thomason put their brains together for some great ideas on how we can reach our vaccination goal.
Covid is the biggest existential crisis that New Zealand has had to face since WWII. In order for us to return to anything approaching normality, while avoiding large-scale deaths, we need to get moving.
Currently, New Zealanders are getting vaccinated at an incredible rate, but we still have a way to go to have a hope of opening up safely.
Our grandparent's generation was required to make enormous sacrifices in World War II, all we need to do is to have a couple of injections. How do we get New Zealanders to get it done?
The more people who are vaccinated, the harder it becomes to reach the remainder. We have already captured the low-hanging fruit. Now we need to go after the tougher-to-reach.
We don't always tell the truth
It's important to remember that, in research, people give many reasons to explain why they may be hesitant, but the answers given are sometimes not the real reason. Although nobody actually says "because I can't be bothered" this may well be a major reason for reluctance.
The most common reason given for hesitating is worrying about side effects. More than 5.6 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world, with minimal side effects reported. Meanwhile, 4.7 million people have already died from the disease and tens of millions more have suffered from long Covid. Side effects are considerably easier than either the debilitating effects of long Covid - or another bunch of lockdowns.
We need a number of solutions
Sadly there is not a silver bullet that will have everyone running down to their nearest vaccination station. Comprehensive uptake will require different messages for different audiences to be successful.
Inertia is one of the biggest handbrakes to vaccination uptake in New Zealand. "I know I should get vaccinated but ... I've been busy, the queue looked too long, I was making sourdough etc." To help overcome this we need to make it as simple as possible. Looking at what's worked overseas: Israel had vaccination centres open 24/7; Ireland had walk-in centres with no appointment and it's good to hear we are starting to run mobile vaccination units (Malaysia already has 40). No bookings, no fuss, an utterly seamless process.
My Body My Choice
This sounds like a reasonable argument, but it would be good if the choice everyone made was not to be selfish. Not having a shot will keep the hospitals clogged up with Covid patients and stop other needy people from getting in.
Doctors, please talk to your patients
There is evidence that those who distrust politicians and medical experts may actually listen to their own doctors.
Ask the corporates to help
The big companies want the country back to normal as much as anyone else and would love to be seen to help. The Warehouse could house vaccination areas. McDonald's could help with food vouchers. Vodafone could help with communications. There's real potential here for many companies to lend their hand to a unified effort.
Stop whinging, start helping
It would be good if business organisations instead of moaning about lockdown hardship (it's bad, we got that ... ) could put that energy into encouraging vaccinations as an effective way of getting business moving.
Word of mouth
Normalising the shot is vital. Get everyone to "Share a Shot of your Shot". Make sure the resistant know they are holding the whole country back. Have a fun photo board set up outside all vaccination centres so people can share their experience on Facebook.
Bring it home
Repeatedly showing deadly car crashes became a turn-off in speeding ads. However, Covid is new, different and the low death rate in New Zealand means that few people have personal experience of the virus, just of the inconveniences needed to fight it. Overseas, the highest rate of vaccinations often occurs in the hardest-hit areas. We need to share and publicise the stories that demonstrate just how bad this disease is.
Use the other political parties
This is too important for party bickering. In case anyone is reluctant because they don't like the current Government we should also use the other leaders: "Hi, my name is Judith Collins/ David Seymour/ Winston Peters. I think the Government has made many mistakes and I look forward to seeing them voted out at the next election. But in the meantime, for the good of all New Zealanders, please get a shot."
Even politicians should be capable of showing a degree of national unity. Stop the posturing and get behind the vaccination drive.
Leverage the lockdown
Nobody likes the lockdown, so use this to help overcome inertia:
"Don't like lockdowns? Get a shot."
"Really don't like lockdowns? Get two."
It turns a potential negative (a jab) into a positive: freedom!
What's the best name?
What we call the vaccination can make a difference and Kiwis love to use their own terms. Vax or Shot or Jab? 'Give me a shot of anti-lockdown?' A Victory Vax? Take one for the team? There is currently talk in the US of having a Trump-branded vaccine. It's ridiculous puffery to an individual whose ego needs no further embellishment, but if it saves lives, who cares? Time for the All Blacks vaccine?
Choose your flavour
Make it fun. Personalise the shot. Do you want the Spanish or the Danish? What flavour do you want, vanilla or chocolate? You could even have a choice of a limited edition lolly with every shot - provided by one of the many excellent food companies in New Zealand. There's no reason that the creativity that encourages people to queue for chocolate milk can't also be used for a cause as important as this.
Don't underestimate the power of bribery.
A free McDonald's voucher with every shot might not sit perfectly with the Health Department's guidelines, but let's worry about other health issues once this pandemic is out of the way. Maybe a lottery? We can get this done by Christmas. Once again, businesses can play an active role in getting the nation up and running again.
Don't worry about the extremists
Advertisers don't waste time on those who will never be persuaded. There's no point in advertising KFC to vegans. Anyone who thinks that Covid is a conspiracy of alien lizards hell-bent on human destruction is unlikely to be swayed by rational argument. Save your breath for where it can make a difference.
An Anti-Anti-Vax website
The impressionable are falling into rabbit holes of disinformation online, which the authorities are struggling to address. A validated online resource could help New Zealanders say things that the Government can't say.
Shoot for 90 - or beyond
A target is useful for people to get behind. If 90 per cent of New Zealanders (12 and over) get vaccinated it should allow us to avoid further lockdowns and to open our borders, without overwhelming our hospitals. With Delta loose, you will probably get Covid-19 if you're not vaccinated. (Yes, some of those vaccinated could still get symptoms, but more like a bad flu.) So far we have led the world on everything Covid except vaccinations – let's add vaccination to our successes. In 2015, 94 per cent of NZ children at 1 year of age had completed all their vaccinations. 95 per cent of Danes over 60 are already vaccinated.
It's easier to do nothing
The Ministry of Health could send everyone a vax appointment. If they want to get the vax they turn up at the allocated time. If they don't want to get a vax they need to reply and say no, which can be a surprisingly strong deterrent. It's called Opting out rather than Opting in, and it works for everything from organ donations to dentist appointments.
We're social animals who survive by watching and learning from what others around us are doing. The problem is that because our elimination has been so good in the past few of us know anyone that's suffered from Covid, and unless you've had a vaccination we haven't seen anyone being vaccinated. We need to create the perception that everyone is doing this, you'd be a bit odd if you didn't. At the moment the media is just as likely to be going on about potential problems as they are about the upsides. The drive needs to be bigger than Harvey Norman and Briscoes combined.
No vax. No fun. This could help with the younger FOMO set. Youngsters in Europe are getting vaccinated to get their freedom back. A vaccine can become the key to visiting your favourite restaurant, attending a packed stadium for the rugby or going to a gig at a local pub.
It's cheaper than lockdown
If you think some of these methods might be expensive, try shutting down the country for another few months.