Increasing Vax Rates with a Smile

There’s a proverb from India that goes,

“If you live by the river, make friends with the crocodile.”

If your career river includes vaccinations, you know what and who the crocs are. So how can we befriend them? Today we get to visit with three groups who have found different ways to overcome obstacles to vaccinations, all by making friends.


Let’s start with the folks at the Wyoming Department of Health. Their fascinating new television spot is what got us thinking about vax promotion.

Here’s the :30 second version

Or, here’s a :60

The ad is surprising and that’s what makes it clever and sneaky-funny, but it’s also surprising in another way – it didn’t argue or push, didn’t pound the table, merely slipped in its little tagline, “Thank a vaccine.”

We had to know more, and Kim Deti, Public Information Officer for the Wyoming Department of Health, was able to fill us in. She explained that the ad is part of a larger marketing campaign, funded by the CDC, and implemented with the help of the ad agency Sukle:

“We had declining rates of vaccination,” Kim explained, “even before the pandemic. And we’re a state with people with strong attitudes. So we wanted to remind them of why vaccinations are important. So our ask of the ad agency was to shore up support for vaccines overall. We did focus groups and out of them came the theme, Thank a Vaccine. And we let the agency know that things around vaccines had gotten so serious that we were ready for a lighthearted approach.”

Kim also explained the inspiration for the television spot: “In their research, the agency actually came across a news article about a man who died from tetanus, from shaving. “

There are more pieces of the marketing campaign coming, but Kim shared with us a print ad being used primarily as a full-page newspaper ad.

And so we see a charming approach to making friends with the crocodile: friendly ads, the sort that you just can’t argue with and that builds a positive relationship with the idea of vaccinations.


We also learned of a pair of unique partnerships for vaccination programs: one with boxing and one with bingo. The boxing connection is between the ACSP (American Society of Consultant Pharmacist, USA Boxing and the ADVC (Aging and Disability Vaccination Collaborative). They call the program “Coaching You Up, KO Flu & Covid.” The video link below has clips from the inaugural program, with the ring announcer in a dinner jacket encouraging the crowd to check out the vaccination information table and get a Covid booster.

We spoke with Jing Wu, Director of Pharmacy Data Strategy and Innovation with the ACSP, to ask about the logic of the connection: “The idea is to bring vaccinations to the community, not to try to get the community to come to the vaccinations if they wouldn’t go to places where vaccines are typically offered, like in hospitals, clinics, or local pharmacies. Our goal is to go to people where they are, especially groups with lower vaccination rates. We want to be in the places that bring them joy.”

Further, in the video mentioned above, the folks from ADVC described another program “Bingo and Boosters,” saying of it, “The atmosphere where they’re getting vaccines was key. We need to offer an experience and the education and the access.”  They hope to create the mindset of, “Oh, I’m here and having a good time and this is important stuff so I’ll go ahead and get my vaccine.”

Notice the language in describing these endeavors, words not often spoken about vaccination campaigns, including joy, atmosphere, good times.


Speaking of bringing vaccines to the community, we sought the advice of Jason Briscoe, now part of STChealth, but someone who, while Director of Pharmacy Operations for Discount Drug Mart (a 75+ locations chain in Ohio), became a familiar face on local television stations, often administering vaccines to the newscasters on-air. We sought his advice on getting such publicity for vaccination programs. (The video link is to a sample TV appearance.)

His advice was to make media connections flow from broader on-site vaccination efforts. At Discount Drug Mart they do hundreds of flu and Covid vax clinics at schools and employers, and he urged vaccinators to start a relationship with television and radio studios by setting up clinics at their facilities and then suggesting on-air conversations.

Jason offered some practical advice for turning media opportunities into vaccination work: “Go in knowing your key points. In our case, we focused on being accessible, on being a convenient, quick, and safe place to get your vaccination.”

Eventually, Jason was routinely fielding media inquiries for interviews or for sound bites on vaccinations and related topics.  “I always tried to find a way to say yes,” he recalled.

Indeed, the team ended up with so many options for on-site clinics, interviews and special events that they began asking “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” meaning did the outcome justify the resources required? Again, his advice was the same: “find a way to say yes.”


So we have friendly reminders of the value of vaccinations, associating vaccines with joy and good times, and going out and building relationships. No spouting statistics, no debating — just making friends.


 Where You Live – Young or Old – Really Does Matter!

By Bill Davenhall, Geomedicine Analyst

New data from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE) program, provides our first glimpse of single-year estimates of people with and without  health insurance in each of the nation’s 3,142 counties. Estimated county uninsured rates ranged from 2.4% to 46.3%, with a median of 10.4%. I would say that It is very obvious that what county you live in does matter when health insurance is the topic. Here are a few of the snippets from the Census Bureau data:

  • Northeast and Midwest counties had the nation’s largest share of low uninsured rates (below 10%)
  • Southern  counties had the largest share of high uninsured rates (above 15%)
  • The Counties with the most people at or below 138% of the poverty rate are mostly in states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility!

Several possible “game changers” –

  • If you were in a working-age family below the Federal Poverty Guideline it actually got worse: The median county uninsured rate among this population was 20.3%.  And for working-age adults (ages 18 to 64) living at or below 138% of the poverty level, the uninsured rates ranged from 4.9% to 64.1%.
  • In states that expanded Medicaid eligibility, 17.2% of counties (346 of 2,006) had an estimated uninsured rate above 20% among working-age adults living at or below 138% of poverty, compared to 82.9% of counties (942 of 1,136) in states that didn’t expand Medicaid eligibility.

The “tireless tinkering” of federal and state level health insurance over the last several decades, for better or worse, demonstrates that arriving at a more uniform and consistent expectation of those who need health insurance coverage will continue to be a topic that will challenge health policy-makers, health insurance program managers, and of course, the people who need consistent health services over a lifetime – in every state and in every county, year after year –pandemic or no-pandemic. Stay tuned!

Do your own data analysis and geographic visuals without being a “map ninja”!

Visit the Census Bureau’s  interactive data and mapping tool. When you click the link, you’ll be taken to a page like the first one shown below. Then, you can create and download various state and county data tables by various demographic factors, like the example from Wyoming in the second image below.

As always, I appreciate 2nd opinions