The Flu Shot’s PR Problem

By Posted in - Blog & Crisis Communications & Grassroots Marketing & Public Relations & Social Media & word of mouth marketing on January 27th, 2015 0 Comments Full Circle PR

The 2014/2015 flu season has shown little mercy across the U.S., with school districts actually canceling classes because of high level outbreaks amongst students and teachers.  This year, the flu virus hit fast, and it hit hard, despite most victims claiming they received their annual recommended vaccine.

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Health (NIH) continually preach the benefits of receiving the flu shot each year. According to the CDC’s website, thousands of people die from the flu or flu-related complications each year, with most of those deaths occurring in people ages 65 and up.

The problem is heightened in years like this one, when the flu vaccine missed the mark on the strain currently infecting people across the country. You hear comments like, “I got my flu shot and I still got the flu! Might as well not get one next year.” Or, “I never get a flu shot, and the fact that so many people got one this year and still got sick is proof positive why I won’t get one moving forward.”

The flu shot has a PR problem.

It’s an almost certainty you’ll see a decline in the amount of people voluntarily receiving the flu shot next season, using this year as the reason why they believe it’s futile to get one.

But what if everyone adopts that mentality? Much like the measles outbreak happening in California and other states as a result of an infected person visiting Disneyland, what happens if everyone just stops getting flu shots because they think it’s pointless? (And yes, I know the measles and the flu are very different things, but bear with me to make the point).

You’ll see an increase in flu outbreaks across the country, which could be incredibly problematic for populations like the very young and very old who are more susceptible to the virus. MORE students will miss school, MORE employees will miss work, MORE complications as a result of flu outbreaks will arise.

The CDC, NIH and other health advocacy organizations need to take the offensive now, educating people about why receiving the flu shot is still a good thing, even in the years when the vaccine was off the mark. Social media, public service announcements, grassroots outreach — all the channels need to be on point, creating dialogue and engaging with citizens to answer concerns and questions they might have about receiving next year’s vaccine. They need to encourage community leaders to have conversations locally, and challenge urban legends with proven facts.

Do you get the flu shot each year? Will you continue to get one in the future, even if you ended up contracting the flu after all? And if you never get a flu shot, what would convince you to get one? Weigh in and let us know….

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