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New VCU Health System campaign aims to increase COVID-19 vaccinations

This sh💛t mattersfeatures personal stories that address vaccine hesitancy among younger Virginians and a desire to return to normalcy

Heba Abbassy This Shot Matters Campaign

As a high number of younger people in Virginia remain unvaccinated from COVID-19, VCU Health is initiating a new public health campaign to increase confidence in and adoption of the vaccine.

“This sh💛t matters” features personal stories from real people around Richmond spanning all different walks of life, pointing to why the COVID-19 vaccine matters to them individually. The experiences shared represent returning to meaningful activities from sports, to music, to family, to summer activities to traveling.

“The bold campaign is part of our ongoing effort to catch the attention of younger people who are still unvaccinated and motivate them to make an appointment,” said Art Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for Virginia Commonwealth University Health Sciences and CEO of VCU Health System. “We all want to move forward from this pandemic and return to meaningful activities that many of us have missed. The more people in our community get the COVID-19 vaccine, the sooner we can move forward.”

The play on words at the heart of each personal story that is part of the campaign is intentional and designed to resonate with younger Virginians across all population groups, including Black, Hispanic and small-town rural Virginians. According to the current data, only 35.9% of the population of Virginia is fully vaccinated, and a high number of people under the age of 40 have yet to get the vaccine.

On a national level, a recent study suggests that 17% of U.S. adults may take a wait-and-see approach before getting vaccinated themselves, and 20% say they will never get a vaccine or will only get it if required to do so for work, school or other activities.

“Communications plays a critical role during this public health crisis,” said Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., assistant professor of public relations and director of VCU’s Media + Health Lab. Guidry is an expert on effective message design for vaccinations and was among the first to study the psychological and social predictors of U.S. adults’ willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccine. “To effectively reach and connect with people, our messages need to meet them where they are and relate in a personal way with them. The personal stories in this campaign represent people from less willing groups to create social proof that someone like them got the vaccine.”

Initially, the campaign will feature testimonies from Mike Rhoades, head coach of VCU men’s basketball; Todd “Parney” Parnell, vice president and chief operating officer of the Richmond Flying Squirrels; Sana Natividad, a VCU biomedical engineering student; and Reverend Stephen L. Artis, executive pastor at Cedar Street Baptist Church, among others.

More stories will be added throughout the campaign, which is set to run through the end of June 2021. VCU Health’s vaccination campaign includes print, television and digital advertising and directs people to Vaccinate Virginia to make an appointment.

Focus group testing showed that both younger and older audiences supported the campaign message, and many found the stories to be relatable and express a refreshing positivity about the vaccine.

For more information about the campaign, visit vcuhealth.org/this-shot-matters.

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