24 Sep 2021

Covid-19 vaccination campaign needs to move away from 'one-size-fits-all' approach

6:54 am on 24 September 2021

Businesses are launching their own vaccination campaigns to reach people they say are being overlooked by the government's messaging.

Prominent NZ-based Cook Islander Johnson Raela getting his Covid-19 jab.

Prominent NZ-based Cook Islander Johnson Raela getting his Covid-19 jab. Photo: Supplied

In April, the government set out its vaccine publicity plan: Radio and tv ads, endorsements from well-known "champions" and pamphlets with reliable information.

But months into the programme, it is being urged to move away from a "one-size-fits-all" approach and target the groups lagging behind, like Māori, Pasifika and younger people.

Strategic political communications expert Dr Edward Elder said the government had relied on the 1pm daily Covid-19 media briefings to share information about the vaccine roll-out.

"They should be shifting much more towards those influencers, those celebrities," Elder said.

"Especially considering if you look at the research and the evidence around communication with the public, you know, people who either look like the audience you're trying to appeal to and specifically sound like and talk like those people are a lot more effective at getting a message out than someone who is, you know, just a generic politician."

National MP and reality TV fan Chris Bishop said the government was missing an opportunity.

He suggested the government ask people like Bachelorette star Lesina Nakhid-Schuster to promote the roll-out.

"Someone reached out to me and said, 'Why is she not in a vaccination campaign?' She's a doctor. She's a well known prominent or reasonably well-known, I suppose. I've certainly watched it, a prominent personality in the community. Why is she not out there, working with the Pacific community to encourage them to get vaccinated?"

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said officials were only now working on targeted campaigns for Māori, Pasifika and younger people.

"The campaign is skewed younger now because that's the demographic that we need to reach more heavily into," Hipkins said.

"Therefore it's using the media that will reach younger people. It is skewed more towards Māori and Pacific communities, again because we need to reach deeper into those communities."

The government has already paid 11 high-profile New Zealanders to appear in a series of vaccine Q and A videos with medical experts.

A Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet spokesperson said the total production cost was about $114,000, which included talent fees.

The videos had strong engagement with a combined 2.8 million views for the eight videos already released, they said.

Former All Black Sir John Kirwan, who featured in the series, said the pandemic had taken something from everyone and the vaccine was a way to get back some freedom.

Sir John said he had some questions about the vaccine and wanted to help others access reliable information.

"I've been very, very fortunate in my life and if I can get the opportunity to lead then that's what I want to."

Actor Jennifer Lealand-Ward said getting involved with the series was a no-brainer.

"If I could be in some way a help to making sure that New Zealand has really good quality information from the people who know then I was all in for that."

The roll-out had a business and community push too, with some groups using social media platforms like Tiktok to challenge people to get vaccinated.

Vodafone has this week rolled out a campaign with the Warriors, targeting young Māori and Pasifika people in South Auckland.

Nicky Preston said posters and images featuring Vodafone Warriors players encouraging people to get vaccinated are being shared on social media.

"We definitely saw that there was a gap in the market for talking about vaccine in a positive way using local heroes. The Warriors are local heroes, particularly among South Aucklanders.

"Having people like Tohu Harris, get up and say, 'Get vaccinated to strengthen the team' is a great message that we hope spreads on social media and we're getting really good responses."

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