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Stories from the Field: Creatively Advertising H1N1 Vaccine

March 2, 2010

crowd at fair Community Outreach

A challenge now faced by many local health departments (LHDs) nationwide is a surplus of H1N1 vaccine and not enough demand. To overcome this obstacle, LHDs are brainstorming and implementing both creative and innovative ways to provide H1N1 vaccinations and education. LHDs are stepping up their advertising campaigns in an effort to communicate with hard-to-reach audiences in their communities.

Offering vaccine and flu-related educational materials at places of congregation seemed like a natural fit for some health officials. During the months of January and February, the Pinellas County Health Department (FL) collaborated with a local place of worship for the H1N1 vaccine distribution. Each Sunday, the Pinellas County staff set up H1N1 vaccination clinics that were available to all county residents. Due to an increase of respiratory illness in the county, the health department strongly encouraged citizens to receive the vaccine. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recognized the importance of reaching out to places of congregation. During National Influenza Vaccination Week in January, the CDC offered educational material for distribution at churches and other places of worship.

Rolling up Sleeves at a Rodeo, a Bridal Fair, and the Zoo
Wanting to provide education about H1N1 to Colorado’s Latino community, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment delivered a message about the importance of receiving H1N1 vaccinations at the Mexican Rodeo portion of the Colorado Stock Show. The messages were delivered in both English and Spanish by the radio announcer, and a public service announcement was provided on video screens before the rodeo began. Also present at the rodeo were bilingual banners promoting H1N1 immunizations, as well as educational materials available at a booth.

The Okaloosa County Health Department (FL) was concerned there would not be enough demand during the January H1N1 vaccination clinics, so the LHD staff hosted four other separate community events. There were vaccine clinics at a Snowbird expo for senior citizens, at an event at the mall during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, at a bridal fair at the conference center, and at a popular outdoor mall.

Since young adults can often be a difficult population to persuade to receive the vaccination, the LHD also promoted H1N1 vaccinations at two popular nightclubs with armbands that promoted free H1N1 shots and the Okaloosa County Health Department's Web site.

Young children are often afraid of receiving vaccinations, but a guaranteed fun day at the zoo might be enough to entice them to receive their H1N1 vaccination. In Norfolk, VA, the Norfolk Department of Public Health worked with the local zoo and daycare providers to organize a “Free Day at the Virginia Zoo and H1N1 Too!”

The LHD had formed a partnership with the school district, but not all the children in the area were being reached. The partnership included the vaccination of children in all elementary, middle, and high schools but excluded daycare centers and preschool facilities.

In order to reach children in daycare centers and preschool facilities, establishments where it can be very difficult to prevent the spread of the flu, the LHD brainstormed with the daycare providers in the fall.

Norfolk County health officials formed a focus group to determine the best location to vaccinate young children. Daycare providers were given educational material about the H1N1 pandemic and how to stop the spread of infection. After assessing the idea of using a creative method to motivate citizens to protect their children and families, they made a decision on a kid-friendly way to offer vaccinations—a free day at the zoo! 

An H1N1 vaccine clinic was set up at the Virginia Zoological Park, and free admission and rides were provided to children and daycare providers. At the end of the day, 169 shots and 76 doses of FluMist® were administered.

Norfolk Department of Public Health Director, Dr. Demetria Lindsay, says partnering with the Virginia Zoo "just made sense: a chance for children to have an educational and fun experience combined with an opportunity to get the vaccine."

Advertising the importance of H1N1 vaccinations is an ongoing priority for LHDs. The stories mentioned here show that creative advertising and offbeat outreach methods at community establishments and events can have valuable outcomes.

Read these and other H1N1-related stories on the searchable H1N1 Stories from the Field database.


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