NEWS

'It's Up to You' COVID-19 Vaccine Campaign Aims to Increase Vaccine Uptake

It's up to you ad campaign.

Courtesy of Ad Council

Key Takeaways

  • There's still a lingering lack of public confidence in the vaccine.
  • To promote vaccination and increase vaccine confidence, the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative launched the "It's Up to You" campaign.
  • The campaign features television, radio, banner, and online video advertisements, as well as GetVaccineAnswers.org, a website for frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

Over 82 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been administered in the U.S., but rejection of and hesitancy toward the vaccines remain a challenge. In a race toward herd immunity, improving vaccine uptake is top of mind for public health officials.

To promote vaccination throughout the U.S. and appeal to those who are still on the fence, the Ad Council, a non-profit organization that produces public service announcements, and the COVID Collaborative launched the “It’s Up to You” vaccine education campaign. The initiative, which began on February 25, focuses on building vaccine confidence and providing resources to help Americans make an informed decision about getting the vaccine.

“I am really excited about this campaign," Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, tells Verywell. "While I don't think it will miraculously fix the problem of the communication failures and spread of misinformation and disinformation over the past year, I am hopeful that it will help move people who are hesitant towards getting a vaccine."

Included in the campaign are various ads scattered across televisions, radios, and social media sites all over the country encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. The tagline, “It’s Up to You,” sends the message that getting the latest vaccine information and stopping the spread of the virus is up to the viewer.

“I can appreciate that the campaign is focusing on actions that an individual can take, to indicate that everyone should play a part and must play a part in this pandemic to protect communities,” Rupali Limaye, PhD, MPH, director of behavioral and implementation science for the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, tells Verywell.

The initiative also involves the creation of GetVaccineAnswers.org, a new website to provide answers for frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

The Campaign's Approach

The campaign features various television, radio, banner, and online video advertisements that are in both English and Spanish. Videos often depict life going back to “normal": brunch, trips, and family gatherings. But some also feature common vaccine questions to encourage viewers to visit the website for more information about getting the vaccine.

“It’s Up To You” Tagline

The ad campaign emphasizes personal choice without being preachy, which is important because Americans value freedom of choice, and the public health community needs to speak to those values to get people to listen, Sell says.

It’s important to transform vaccine concern into vaccine confidence, and the campaign hopes to achieve this by delivering the message that getting educated about the vaccine and helping the country achieve herd immunity is ultimately up to the viewer. 

“I appreciate that it has a call to action," Limaye says. "People must feel as though they can do the action, or have self-efficacy and believe that the action is effective, or response efficacy. They must also believe there is a threat to nudge them to act. I think the key is to identify trusted messengers that recommend doable actions so that people feel like they can do something to protect their loved ones and communities.”

Although the tagline aims to give the viewer the power to make a difference, it can still be interpreted in many ways. Those who already feel especially burdened by the pandemic, like essential workers or people who lost their jobs, may feel added pressure that it’s up to them to personally stop and end the pandemic. They may wonder why it’s only up to them, Stacy Wood, PhD, Langdon Distinguished University Professor of Marketing at the North Carolina State University Poole College of Management, tells Verywell.

Going Back to Normal

Many people want to “get back to normal,” and it’s a good idea to frame that as one benefit of the vaccine because it’s a shared desire, Wood says. However, according to Limaye, it’s still a little tricky because life will not be returning to what we consider normal for a while. Back in January, the World Health Organization said that it might not be possible to achieve global herd immunity this year.

It’s important for viewers to understand that life won’t immediately go back to pre-pandemic days, but receiving the vaccine is a step toward that goal. It’s still necessary to maintain social distance, wear masks, and stay at home even after getting vaccinated, Limaye says.

What This Means For You

The majority of the population must be vaccinated against the virus to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19. So if you can, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine when you're eligible. Campaigns like these help emphasize that getting the vaccine is the only way to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy

The ad campaign acknowledges that Black and Latinx communities, in particular, have been experiencing vaccine hesitancy. According to the Ad Council, they performed thorough research to develop the ads that are targeted for these communities. However, promoting ads and establishing a website to dispel vaccine concerns might not always be effective.

“I don't really know that another website is going to be able to address the range of vaccine hesitancy concerns,” Sell says. Wood shares the sentiment, noting that if the ad creates a feeling of pressure, it’s unlikely to persuade people to go to the website where more specific information is available.

The vaccine hesitancy of communities of color is rooted in mistrust in the government, authorities, and healthcare systems, as well as historical trauma from medical experimentation, Limaye says. Therefore, trust must be built and fostered by community messengers and leaders they believe in—in addition to top-down measures like this ad campaign.

“While I think the initiative is great, we need to see trusted people in these communities take it a step further to bring vaccination up as a topic of conversation, address concerns—which are fair for people to voice—and talk through how the vaccine is safe and can help us move forward to get back to all those things we want to do,” Sell says.

A separate initiative launched March 4, THE CONVERSATION: Between Us, About Us, aims to do just that by targeting Black communities specifically. This campaign, developed by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Black Coalition Against COVID, features Black doctors, nurses, and researchers dispelling misinformation and providing accessible facts in 50 FAQ videos.

“This is a comprehensive effort on behalf of Black healthcare workers across the country, to ensure every Black person in the United States has the credible information they need to make this critical choice. It is time for us to have a conversation, between us and about us," Rhea Boyd, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and public health advocate, who co-developed the project with KFF and the Black Coalition Against COVID, said in a press release.

Effectiveness as a Public Health Message

“If this [campaign] is as good as Tips from Former Smokers, I'd be pretty happy," Sell says. "While we need it to move the needle on more than 100,000 people, [based on] the number of people who quit smoking from that campaign, I think this campaign can do it."

In a paper published in New England Journal of Medicine about promoting vaccination in the U.S., government health agencies, advocacy groups, and healthcare institutions must develop distinct communication strategies depending on a person’s likelihood to get the vaccine—definitely yes, probably yes, probably no, and definitely no—to positively influence vaccine behavior and move intent to action.

“It's important to consider what different actions can motivate people who differ in their interest level,” Wood says. For example, those who say they will probably get the vaccine can be encouraged by exposure to reminders on social media with the “act now” mentality or perhaps by added incentives and convenience in getting the vaccine.

However, for those who say they probably won’t get the vaccine, targeted education and shared stories from within their own community will be more effective than persuasion tactics or statistics. Even though campaigns and public health messages are in place to promote vaccination, it’s still important for everyone to do their part in actively encouraging others to get the vaccine.

“We still need help from public health, community leaders, and every person who has had a vaccine or wants one to spread the message that these vaccines are the path back to what we have missed over the past year,” Sell says. “We need adult children to talk to their parents, we need pastors to talk about it at church, we need everyone to lend a hand and have that conversation.”

Aside from the “It’s Up to You” vaccine campaign, some strategies mentioned in the paper are already being implemented by a number of vaccination sites, like the increased visibility of people who already got vaccinated by giving out wearable tokens, sharing social media frames and banners, or partnering with celebrities and respected local leaders.

However, to ensure widespread vaccine uptake, federal, state, and county health agencies will have to continue establishing a wider variety of communication strategies that appeal to populations with varying levels of vaccine hesitancy. 

“I've only seen the initial video spots and messages so I think we will need to see how much it is able to penetrate into everyday life, but I'm glad to see this big effort,” Sell says. “Time will tell how it measures up.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. World Health Organization. WHO press conference on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - 11 January. January 11, 2021.

  2. Ad Council. COVID-19 Vaccine Education.

  3. Wood S, Schulman K. Beyond politics — Promoting Covid-19 vaccination in the United StatesN Engl J Med. 2021;384(7):e23. doi:10.1056/nejmms2033790