The Vaccine Project Newsletter: We can do this, it's up to … us .

Houston Methodist Hospital



The long-awaited federal government campaign to build confidence in COVID-19 vaccination, unveiled last week and unrolling as we speak, has at least three key components: (1) Television ads in English and Spanish conveying the message “We Can Do This” (2) a “nationwide network of local voices people know and trust,” dubbed the COVID-19 Community Corps, encompassing some 275 partner organizations, and (3) new social media frames “so Americans can display their choice to get vaccinated and encourage their friends and family to do the same.”

The effort is “a campaign to increase vaccine confidence while reinforcing basic prevention measures.” The hope is that friendly, familiar, authoritative, credible, and persuasive voices will be heard, trusted, and heeded. Roll up your sleeves, don’t toss that mask.

In addition to running ads in general broadcast, cable and digital outlets, the Department of Health and Human Services has made “multi-million-dollar ad buys” in Black and Spanish-language media and in channels reaching AAPI and Tribal populations. The spots will run throughout April. Check them out here and here, in English and in Spanish.

“We Can Do This” joins other catchphrases in play, including the Ad Council’s “It’s Up to You” and a new campaign from Walgreens called “This is Our Shot,” a slogan that has also been adopted by the National Association of Manufacturers. CVS is running TV ads with the hashtag #OneStepCloser. Missouri’s Stronger Together manifesto continues to resonate.

These educational campaigns are taking place against a backdrop of several ongoing story arcs: an increasingly robust vaccine rollout, with a new target date of April 19 for all U.S. adults to be eligible; relaxation of mask mandates and other restrictions; and new, unsettling surges of disease, with variants being the wild cards in the deck. Things are in motion, they’re interconnected, and they’re moving quickly.

This week’s Vaccine Project Newsletter is 3,131 words long and will take you 10 minutes to read.

The communication effort

“We Can Do This” is the latest voice in a chorus that has been singing for some time and growing.

  • Walgreens has debuted This Is Our Shot, “an integrated communications and marketing push to boost vaccine confidence and let people know they can get their shot at Walgreens,” Alison Weissbrot reports in Campaign. Singer John Legend is the voice in two 30-second spots on broadcast and cable, including NBA programming on ABC and ESPN. He’s also representing the campaign in social media and press interviews. On April 18, in a Walgreens-sponsored NBC special called “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” celebrities, pharmacists, community influencers and others will encourage viewers to get vaccinated.
  • As it happens, This Is Our Shot is also the name of a project coming from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and its affiliated Manufacturing Institute. “Vaccinations should be really simple, because it comes down to one thing: we want to protect the people we love,” says Chrys Kefalas, NAM’s VP of Brand Strategy. With that in mind, the project produced a 30-second video called I Love Frank. The message: “Manufacturers are rolling up our sleeves … because we all have someone we love.”
  • The manufacturing associations have also launched a campaign featuring a yellow and red ribbon as a sign of being “Safely Vaccinated.” Yellow “shows that we support one another” and red “signifies that we care for one another.”
  • The Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida is partnering with the two manufacturing organizations in an effort to address vaccine reluctance among the factory workforce. The Center is also developing a toolkit, with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that any of us could use to talk to skeptical family members, friends, colleagues, and others in our social circle. We, too, can be “trusted local messengers.”
  • In both of its initiatives, the U of F Center is building on its own “Practitioner’s Guide to the principles of COVID-19 vaccine communication. “Among the tips: Appeal to constructive emotions like love, hope and the desire to protect … provide value by listening to what people are asking and offering detailed and meaningful answers.
  • Trinity Health, a nonprofit Catholic health system with 92 hospitals in 22 states, is launching a vaccine initiative among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities. In Campaign, Sabrina Sanchez notes that Trinity is working with creative agency Ayni Brigade and turning to social media influencers, radio, churches, and grassroots organizations to “unpack the science” in a way that addresses fears and issues of trust. The campaign theme is It Starts Here: “We’re all ready for a new day. And it starts here. With you.”
  • The CVS campaign declares that “With every vaccine, we’re one step closer to doing something we’ve missed. Whether it’s hugging a grandchild or going to spin class, here’s to being one step closer to a better tomorrow.” People getting vaccinated are holding signs saying “I’m one step closer to (fill in the blank)” and posting them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • The Ad Council and Covid Collaborative are adding a new dimension to their vaccine confidence campaign, partnering with a coalition of evangelical organizations. Evangelicals represent 24% of the U.S. population, but only 57% of them in a recent survey said they have taken or intend to take the vaccine, compared to 77% of non-evangelicals. White evangelicals are twice as likely as minority evangelicals to say no to vaccination (30% vs 15%). Educational content is appearing on, a website of Redeeming Babel, an evangelical group devoted to “Biblical thinking in a confused world.”
  • Do consumers want to hear pro-vaccination messages from non-healthcare brands? According to a Harris Poll/Adweek survey, 60% say yes, consumer brands have an “obligation” to encourage people to get vaccinated; 70% support brands sharing information on how and where to get vaccines and 62% think brands should help dispel COVID-19 vaccine myths. In addition, 60% said they’d be more likely to buy from a brand that offers promotions to encourage vaccinations—good news for Krispy Kreme.
  • The generation gap rears its head: In the Harris Poll/Adweek survey, those who said they trust brands more than social media ranged from 73% of boomers to 63% of Gen X, 44% of millennials and 37% of Gen Z. Do you see a pattern here? For the surveyed group as a whole, 71% trust the news and 79% trust government agencies more than brands.

The Takeaway:

The tide of vaccine confidence is rising. May it lead on to fortune. Shakespeare, more or less.

Source: Getty

The rollout

Did anyone ever think we would be vaccinating more than 4 million people in one day? We hit that mark last weekend. The seven-day average was more than 3 million a day. Nice work.

  • FEMA’s first mobile vaccination units took to the road in the past week, in eastern and southwestern Connecticut and on the eastern shore of Maryland. They are designed to reach the hard to reach, people who don’t have easy access to a mega-site. Meanwhile, federally supported community vaccination centers opened in Boston, Newark, Norfolk, and Yakima, Washington, with more opening this week in Memphis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Gary, Indiana and Greenbelt, Maryland.
  • West Virginia is expanding its vaccination effort to include family members and caregivers of long-term care residents and staff, Amy Novotney reports in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The state, which has outpaced most others in its vaccine rollout, also conducted an onsite vaccination clinic at a Toyota plant where 900 employees and family members got their shots. West Virginia is also lending a hand to churches that want to host vaccination clinics.
  • Physician practices have delivered 75% of the COVID-19 jabs in England, Nick Bostock reports in GP, a contrast to the U.S. where free-standing megasites, pharmacies, and other sites dominate the vaccination scene. GP’s Luke Haynes notes that physicians are also being asked by the National Health Service to consider setting up drive-through vaccination clinics to boost coverage in low-uptake areas.
  • Houston Methodist Hospital has decided to require at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination for all of its 26,000 employees, starting with managers and new hires. About 83% of employees have already been vaccinated. That other 17% is key.
  • The decision by Houston Methodist comes amid news that cases of COVID-19 caused by the B.1.1.7 variant, first reported in the U.K., are doubling in the Houston metro area every week and could dominate the area within four to six weeks. It could dominate throughout the U.S. as well and has now been detected in all 50 states.
  • More than 80% of those responding to a Harris Poll completely or somewhat support requiring college students to be vaccinated before heading back to campus. At least seven colleges and universities have taken that step, The Hill reports: Rutgers, Cornell, Brown, Northeastern, Nova Southeastern in Florida, Fort Lewis College in Colorado, and St. Edward’s University in Austin.
  • A number of influential voices in healthcare policy, including some who served on the Biden transition team, are urging a delay in the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine so that more people can get the first dose, which provides an estimated 80% protection. That’s a better and quicker way to stop the spread of infection, they say.
  • However, White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci is not wavering in his support of a two-dose regimen that follows the original timetable, saying we need that extra measure of protection—90% after two doses—to help keep the variants at bay. Dr. Fauci and others also suggest that the second dose confers a more robust measure of immunity.
  • Major League Baseball and the NBA are “strongly encouraging” but not requiring vaccination of players, coaches, and staff. Instead, they are sweetening the pot, promising to relax mask-and-distancing protocols for individuals who get vaccinated and for entire teams that vaccinate 85% of their personnel.

The Takeaway:

Roll on. More than 169 million doses delivered in the U.S., more than 693 million worldwide. At this time a year ago, vaccines were but a gleam in the eye.

Source: Getty

The challenges

Earlier this year, the Biden administration identified three keys to a successful rollout: enough vaccine supply, enough vaccinators, and enough vaccination sites. Check, check, check. A fourth arc is needed to close that circle: enough willing arms.

  • Although vaccination has allowed nursing home visitation rules to be relaxed, the doors can swing shut again if outbreaks occur. When that happens—and it has—angry relatives are likely to blame unvaccinated nursing home staff. Kimberly Marselas has more in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Staff vaccination rates in long-term care have hovered around a disappointing 50% with a few notable breakthroughs here and there.
  • Citing a “growing industry trend,” and a “moral and ethical duty” to keep residents and staff safe, an operator of 31 nursing and assisted living facilities in Ohio is requiring its 2,000 employees to get their COVID-19 shots. Danielle Brown and Kimberly Bonvissuto have the story in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Senior Living. Benjamin Parsons, president and managing partner of Continuing Healthcare Solutions, said, “We’re ready to sit down with any employee and talk about the facts … Quite simply, we all need to get the shot.”
  • The Arbor Company, based in Atlanta with 40 facilities in 11 states, has added its name to that list of senior living companies mandating vaccination of staff. Employees have until June 30 to get their shots.
  • People in jail or prison are at increased risk for COVID-19 but less willing to be vaccinated than the general population, the CDC reports. A survey among more than 5,000 participants found that 45% would accept vaccination, 45% would refuse, and 10% were hesitant. The report “underscores the urgent need for interventions that are culturally relevant and appropriate for various health literacy levels to increase vaccine confidence.”
  • The fully vaccinated among us “can travel at low risk to themselves,” the CDC has determined, even if it would prefer that you stay put right now. The “fully vaccinated” moment kicks in two weeks after your final recommended dose. For travel within the U.S., the fully vaccinated do not need pre-travel testing or post-travel self-quarantine but should continue to wear a mask, avoid crowds, socially distance, and wash hands often while away from home.
  • A slightly different set of CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated applies to international travel. There’s no need to be tested before departure unless the destination requires it. Coming back to the U.S., you’ll need a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before boarding (or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months). You should also get tested three to five days after your return.
  • For the unvaccinated, the advice for nonessential domestic travel remains unchanged, Brian Park reminds us in MPR. Basically, please don’t do it, and if you do, follow established pre- and post-travel testing and quarantine guidelines.
  • Vaccine passports have become a political hot potato so quickly that some Capitol observers say it will become a central campaign issue for Republicans seeking to regain control of Congress in the 2022 elections. GOP officials are calling the passports evidence of government overreach and invasion of privacy. The Republican Governors of Texas and Florida have already taken action to ban the passports. The White House is keeping hands off.
  • As pharmacies become major players in the vaccination rollout, privacy watchdogs are worried that the companies will use personal information gathered from vaccine seekers for marketing purposes, Politico reports.
  • Europe is going through another surge of lockdowns. France just went into its third, shutting schools and non-essential shops for four weeks and imposing a curfew from 7 pm to 6 am. There’s no shelter in place order, but residents need a valid reason to venture more than six miles from home.
  • The pandemic appeared to be waning and restrictions were eased, only to see a new wave of disease gather force. The place: India, where infections that had dropped to 11,000 a day soared to 60,000, comparable to U.S. numbers of late. Until recently, just 5% of the population in India had received a shot. Vaccine hesitancy is a factor, with the head of a nonprofit in COVID hot spot Mumbai saying that “massive community education” is needed to overcome fears and doubts.

The Takeaway:

Logistical, philosophical and other barriers to successful vaccination persist. And so must we. Perseverance is the secret of all triumphs (thank you, Victor Hugo).

Source: Getty

The vaccine dashboard

Aside from one whopper of a production snafu, it’s mostly good news.

  • J&J is taking over control of the Baltimore manufacturing plant of Emergent Biosolutions, where inadvertent mixing of J&J and AstraZeneca ingredients led to 15 million ruined doses. Astra Zeneca will need to find another site. J&J says it will deliver on its promise of 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May. Of the 169 million shots given to date in the U.S., just over 4 million were J&J vaccines. But the J&J train will soon be leaving the station and heading this way.
  • Pertinent factoid of the week: The pediatric population (under age 18) represents 24% of the American people. That’s why children and adolescents are a key part of the herd immunity picture—and why all the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are busily engaged in clinical trials for the young.
  • That will be the next hill to scale—convincing parents to vaccinate their kids. Nearly half do not intend to do so as soon as a pediatric vaccine is available, according to an Axios-Ipsos poll. This will be another wait-and-see contingent.
  • The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine proved highly effective for up to six months beyond the second dose—91% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, and 100% effective against CDC-defined severe disease. Brian Park shares details in MPR from an updated analysis of Phase 3 data. The vaccine also was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 in South Africa.
  • Moderna is also reporting positive six-month results. The FDA has authorized Moderna to produce vials containing up to 15 doses of COVID-19 vaccine; current vials can hold a maximum of 11. Storage requirements have been eased as well; the vaccine can be kept at room temperature for 24 hours (previously 12) and a punctured vial is good for up to 12 hours (previously 6), Park writes in MPR. These changes should lead to more doses shipped, fewer doses tossed.
  • A new type of COVID-19 vaccine is being tested in Brazil, Thailand, Mexico and Vietnam, the New York Times reports. If it works as well in human trials as it did in animal studies, it could be a “game-changer,” some say. The vaccine has a molecular structure designed to produce more potent antibodies than the current generation but has something old and familiar: the ability to be mass-produced in chicken eggs, just like flu vaccines.

Parting shot

Today is World Health Day. In January, the World Health Organization expressed the hope that by April 7, almost 100 days into the new year, COVID-19 vaccines would be administered in all countries “as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges.”

That hasn’t happened; in fact, 85% of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in upper- and middle-income countries, while some countries haven’t delivered a single shot. The WHO notes that the impact of the pandemic has been harshest on communities that were already vulnerable to the disease and less likely to have access to quality healthcare. On World Health Day, WHO is asking everyone “to join a new campaign to build a fairer, healthier world.”

In addition to humanitarian motives, there is an element of enlightened self-interest here as well. In an era when diseases can cross the globe with the ease and speed of even an infrequent flier, world health leaders caution that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. Secretary of State Tony Blinken diplomatically agrees: “This pandemic won’t end at home until it ends worldwide.”

… and some songs

· My Hometown, Bruce Springsteen

· Small Town, John Mellencamp

· Coming Home, Leon Bridges

· Home, Phillip Phillips

· Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys

· Heal the World, Michael Jackson

Be well, stay well, and many thanks for being here. Join us again tomorrow for a Haymarket Coronavirus Briefing. Take good care.