Scientists use sophisticated marketing techniques to win over ...

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Scientists use sophisticated marketing techniques to win over anti-vaxxers

What works in Kenya might backfire in India. Research has shown the need to tailor messages to specific audiences

Kristen V Brown

Public-health researchers seeking new ways to persuade vaccine holdouts to take coronavirus shots are turning to the strategies of the digital marketing industry to figure out how to win over the reluctant.

Companies that use online ads to sell products try out various colours, phrases, typefaces and a whole host of other variables to determine what resonates with consumers. So why not, the thinking goes, apply the same sort of A/B testing to figure out how best to promote vaccines?

To that end, the UN Children’s Fund, The Public Good Projects and the Yale Institute for Global Health have partnered to create the Vaccine Demand Observatory, which is working with Facebook to help nations around the world fine-tune their appeals to better inspire vaccine confidence. The work is critically important as the world grapples with the combined obstacles of the hyper-contagious Delta variant, sluggish vaccine rollouts in some nations and plateauing uptake in others, and it’s been given fresh impetus after Pfizer-BioNTech said last week that its Covid-19 vaccine was safe and effective in children aged five to 11, findings that could pave the way to begin vaccinating  primary school children within months. Medical evidence makes clear that vaccines are safe and effective at both slowing the spread of the virus and greatly decreasing the risk of hospitalisation for those rare vaccinated individuals that do contract Covid. Yet, in the US, where vaccines are widely available, about 25% of eligible adults haven’t taken their shots...

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