NCSU marketing professor says we're missing a target audience for vaccination

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some Americans refuse to get vaccinated while others are hesitant but might be persuaded by the right information and approach.

A North Carolina State University professor has a theory that there's a third group who aren't in either camp, they're just apathetic about the vaccine.

She has co-authored an article in JAMA, the Journal of American Medicine, that argues there are ways to reach this group that could finally move the needle to herd immunity.

But marketing professor Stacy Wood thinks we're not listening to the right experts saying, "The COVID vaccination is the most important new product launch we've had in our lifetime. And so in marketing, we know a lot about how to introduce and persuade people to try new things."

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A marketing expert at NC State says marketing may be the key to getting the American public vaccinated for COVID-19.



Wood says we've been hearing a lot about those who are vaccine-hesitant, how to address their concerns, and maybe convince them to get vaccinated.

However, she and others believe there are some who aren't necessarily opposed to getting the shot but for various reasons may not have it high on their priority list.

And Raleigh resident John Johnson is one of them.

At a Wake County vaccine clinic this week he told ABC 11, "I've been wanting to get but have just been putting it off. But, you know, I knew I wanted to get it eventually."

Johnson got vaccinated just this week simply because he finally made time.

"I was in the area and I've been putting it off," he said, "And I was starting to do some research on where I could get one and I saw the signs and figured I'd stop in while I had the day off."

In the JAMA article Wood and the medical doctor who was her co-author call people like Johnson the vaccine apathetic.

They estimate the group represents as much as 15% of the population, may be the easiest group to convince to get vaccinated, and could make a huge difference in reaching the vaccine goal.

"We're close to about 60% of adults in the US being totally vaccinated. And so another 10 or 15% would get us that much closer to herd immunity," Wood said.

She added that there's a marketing theory on how to approach the apathetic or what is known as a low-involvement consumer.

"For low involvement consumers, it's very important that you grab attention, that you keep the messages short, sweet, simple," Wood said, "They can be humorous, they can be involving very liked celebrities, but the idea is not to try to overkill it with statistics, expert opinions, lots of data. That's the kind of stuff that drives the vaccine apathetic or low involvement consumers away."

And once you reach them on all different platforms and a cross-section of media outlets, you should then put vaccination clinics right in front of them according to Wood who added, "Then follow it up with pop-up clinics for vaccination at baseball games, at the airport, anywhere where people already are. So that they, so that they have the chance to get vaccinated, right in the moment, when they're seeing that message and they think, 'Oh, that's right. I should probably do this.'"

With that combined approach she said, we are much more likely to see the vaccine apathetic join the ranks of the vaccinated and maybe move us to the brink of herd immunity.
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