How Facebook can help get everyone vaccinated for COVID-19

With the primary vaccines administered within the U.S., the top of the COVID-19 pandemic is now in sight. The problem over the following yr might be reaching widespread vaccination throughout the complete inhabitants, particularly amongst individuals of colour who’re suffering and dying from the virus at higher rates. Many specialists are apprehensive that vaccination charges for minority teams may lag behind the remainder of the inhabitants. Information from the primary weeks of the vaccine rollout point out that in some states, white Individuals are being vaccinated at two to three times the rate of Black Americans.

Public well being officers are exploring quite a lot of methods to extend vaccination charges. My research suggests that Facebook advertisements concentrating on zip codes with giant minority populations, excessive COVID-19 charges, and low vaccine uptake might be extremely efficient at encouraging underrepresented teams to get vaccinated. Whereas focused internet marketing is broadly utilized by companies, the general public well being group has been gradual to undertake it. I imagine that on-line advertisements, supplied for free by Facebook as a public good, can be an important software for reaching the widespread vaccination essential to carry the pandemic to an in depth.

No vaccination marketing campaign might be shut to finish with out high levels of participation from racial and ethnic minorities, who make up 40% of the U.S. inhabitants and have been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. But the U.S. has a long history of mistreating and neglecting minority groups in vaccine trials and different medical analysis, leaving individuals of colour understandably distrustful of our healthcare system and extra hesitant to entry care, together with important vaccinations. In 2019, uptake of the flu vaccine was 12% decrease amongst Black individuals and 15% decrease amongst Latino individuals than white individuals, even supposing these teams are hospitalized for the flu at increased charges.


Latest surveys have discovered widespread skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine, significantly amongst Black Individuals. Moderna’s vaccine trial underrepresented Black Individuals, and almost half of Black and greater than one-third of Hispanic adults imagine that the COVID-19 vaccines at present being distributed weren’t developed with their wants in thoughts. As of December, one in three Black adults say they’ll “undoubtedly not” or “in all probability” not get the vaccine, even whether it is freely out there, in comparison with one in 4 White and Hispanic adults. White adults usually tend to say they’ll get the vaccine as quickly as doable. Most Black and Hispanic adults, for whom the general public well being system has lengthy been fraught, wish to wait and see how the vaccine is working for different individuals.

The nation wants a sturdy marketing campaign to counter vaccine skepticism and end up people, particularly individuals of colour, to vaccine clinics. My analysis on the usage of focused promoting in public well being campaigns means that leveraging social media might be one of many quickest and best methods to extend vaccine uptake in particular communities, particularly throughout lockdowns when conventional outreach channels like in-person occasions, billboards, and flyers are much less related.

Whereas Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram don’t enable concentrating on advertisements by race, my analysis discovered that concentrating on by zip code can serve largely the identical function. In a recent study, I recruited individuals for a quit-smoking assist group utilizing Facebook advertisements that focused zip codes with predominantly Black populations. In comparison with an identical marketing campaign that confirmed advertisements to people who smoke throughout the nation, the zip-code-targeted marketing campaign greater than doubled the variety of Black candidates for the group. After we ran an identical marketing campaign concentrating on zip codes with giant Latino populations, the variety of Latino candidates greater than tripled.

Whereas public well being specialists acknowledge the worth of social media for distributing messages—the CDC even has a social media toolkit for sharing details about COVID-19—merely broadcasting messages on the social channels of presidency businesses is inadequate. Zip-code-targeted advertisements be sure that underrepresented populations are uncovered to vaccine data of their customized feeds that they may not encounter in any other case. Advertisements are delivered repeatedly, increasing the likelihood that vaccine-hesitant viewers see and interact with them. Campaigns can be re-targeted over time to populations and geographic areas the place vaccination charges stay low.

Facebook can help finish this pandemic by providing free focused advert campaigns on its platform and Instagram that encourage susceptible populations to get vaccinated, in partnership with public well being authorities who know which teams and zip codes are highest precedence. Advertisements may supply a transparent name to motion—”Schedule a vaccine appointment now!”—together with details about native vaccination websites and a reminder that the vaccine is free and secure. They might be tailor-made to totally different native and cultural contexts, together with photographs of well-known group members being vaccinated. Going ahead, Facebook may even contemplate making a devoted promoting portal for data-driven public well being campaigns, partnering with well being authorities to encourage underrepresented or high-risk teams to entry care.

Facebook, which is at present going through an enormous public belief hole and an antitrust suit from the U.S. government, often counters public criticism by arguing that its social community advantages society. In April, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed about how the corporate was utilizing its platform and knowledge to assist the struggle towards COVID-19. Now they’ve a chance to create social good by serving to public well being officers guarantee high-priority teams, particularly individuals of colour, get the vaccines they must be secure. By working collectively on such a marketing campaign, Facebook and public well being authorities can carry the pandemic to a sooner, extra equitable shut and be sure that minority communities don’t proceed to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

Dr. Connie Pechmann is a Professor of Advertising on the University of California-Irvine Paul Merage School of Business. She research the impression of promoting and social media on shoppers and the effectiveness of public well being advert campaigns.