Drive for 75: Resources from Week 33

Workforce | October 21, 2021 | by Dee Pekruhn, Jill Schumann

LeadingAge Coronavirus Update Calls feature brief segments called “Drive for 75” to promote the successful vaccination of at least 75% of our aging services providers’ workforce, and as needed, residents. We will cover developments in the news, research, and innovative practices that support our members in attaining high vaccination rates.

This Week’s Highlights:

Volume Seventy-Six: Air Date 10.18.21. “Unexpected Reasons for Vaccine Hesitancy”

So, this is our 33rd week and 76th edition of Drive for 75! Jill and I continue to scour the news channels, research institutions, and pop culture for any new and interesting approaches to the vaccine hesitancy puzzle. After this much time, you may wonder, is there anything we haven’t already discussed, is there anything new to learn about why people are hesitant? Turns out, there is.

A thoughtful Op-Ed came out in the NYT on Friday, and offers some different insights. Today, I’ll summarize the high notes, including a brief exploration of the Covid States Project from which the author draws her data.

In short, here are a few facts – new to me – that help us better understand the vaccine hesitant. To the author’s point, most of these facts reveal that most of the remaining unvaccinated are confused about the vaccines – rather than being staunch, hardcore refusers.

· The Covid States Project finds that there are equally people who are vaccine-willing and vaccine resistant amongst the unvaccinated.

· September research from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a powerful predictor of who is still unvaccinated is lack of access to health insurance. This, the author suggests, fuels the power of mistrust and misinformation, rather than these two factors being significant vaccine barriers on their own.

· As of 2015, 25% of the US population has “no primary healthcare provider to turn to for trusted advice.” Author makes the point: because navigating the healthcare system is challenging even for minor illnesses, many do not have a trusted provider who can help them sort out the misinformation.

· Author makes the point: 95% of those over 65 may be vaccinated because they have regular access to healthcare through Medicare, and thus greater trust in the system than those who do not.

· Those who have given ‘dying testimony’ of their decision not to get vaccinated have said they either waited because they were worried about side effects, or had underlying medical conditions that delayed their receipt of the vaccine until it was too late.

· Another ‘overlooked group of high vaccine hesitancy: young mothers. Only about one-third of pregnant women are vaccinated, and vaccine hesitant mothers with young children will determine just how well the pediatric vaccination effort goes in just a few short weeks.

· Fear of needles – while we discussed this in an earlier drive for 75, this author points out success in Canada and the UK with this group, precisely because some clinics have been offered exclusively for those with fears – with private spaces and targeted anxiety-reducing interventions.

· And for those who seem impossible to convince, targeted strategies that highlight deceptive practices (such as the face that 90% of people at Fox News are vaccinated and wear masks, despite Tucker Carlson’s positions on the issues) and reveal how people have been purposefully misled has been shown to work in changing minds about taking the vaccine.

· The author suggests that vaccine mandates are so successful for two reasons: 1) there really are very few true hardcore holdouts, and 2) it allows for people to ‘save face’ if they initially said they were not going to get the vaccine.

In closing, what seems to drive hesitancy for most of the still unvaccinated are still predominantly fear and confusion, and it continues to be important for us to understand and address the nuances to those factors that prevent people from getting vaccination.

Volume Seventy-Seven: Air Date 10.20.21. “More Than One Answer”

What will move the undecided to get the vaccine is a question with more than one answer, as we have been reporting for months now.

The latest research from Civis Analytics, conducted among more than 5,000 unvaccinated people, shows that the most persuasive messages right now focus on protecting children from COVID-19 and on the financial costs of getting sick. The survey also found that effective messaging varies by demographic group. Emphasizing personal choice, for example, helps when communicating with people in the U.S. who identify as “very conservative,” people without a high school diploma and those making between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. Among the Latino population, messages emphasizing patriotism resonate while scary statistics about hospitalization are likely to backfire.

Civis cautions that focusing on the personal health risks of COVID-19 is not a strategy that will motivate reluctant individuals. “The numerous stories about people on their deathbeds who regret being unvaccinated aren’t resonating with the people who need convincing,” said the director of healthcare analytics.

Nonetheless, the Department of Health and Human Services has inserted a “fear factor” into its newest PSAs. The ads draw on social media posts and interviews with survivors and an ICU nurse to dramatize the potentially devastating impact of the disease. HHS officials know that approach may not work for everyone, but feel the time has come to move away from earlier ads that depicted vaccination as a way to recapture the simple joys of everyday living.

The CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, believes that the tough, straight-talk approach “resonates more than, ‘Let’s sing "Kumbaya" together and go to a concert.’ It’s a better approach to say, ‘This is what you need to do to keep yourself alive,’ rather than, ‘This is how to help the world.’”

In everyday living, the message that more and more people around the country are now hearing is: “You will need to be vaccinated if you want to keep your job.” Mandates and related requirements have increased vaccination rates by more than 20 percentage points in both the public and private sectors. Requirements have helped reduce the unvaccinated eligible population from 98 million in late July to 67 million in early October. So let’s vary the message and keep getting more people vaccinated.