A new advertising campaign encouraging Australians to get a COVID-19 vaccination starts on Wednesday, with the federal government insisting the jabs will be safe and effective.
It follows the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s decision to approve the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as the first to be rolled out across the country.
Aged care and disability residents and staff will be among the first to be vaccinated from late February, along with quarantine and border workers and those in frontline healthcare roles.
The federal government hopes all Australians who want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to do so by October.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the $24 million advertising campaign would be rolled out across TV, radio, print, social and digital media.
“The campaign will keep Australians fully informed and up to date about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines as they become available, including when, how and where to get the jab,” he said.
“The information in this campaign, based on expert and independent medical advice, will help answer the questions people may have.”
The first phase of the campaign features the head of the TGA, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, who insists vaccines will be approved only “when we have enough evidence that they work and that they’re safe” .
Former deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth and chief nursing and midwifery officer Alison McMillan also appear in the advertisement.
Campaign crucial to ensuring adequate uptake of the vaccine, expert says
The University of Sydney’s Professor Julie Leask, who specialises in the uptake of vaccines, said the information campaign “couldn’t be more crucial”.
“We’re at a really pivotal time in terms of COVID-19 vaccination. This is a new program and people will have a lot of questions, and they’ll be making decisions about whether they’ll have the vaccine or not,” she said.
“A good campaign will have three major elements. It will raise awareness, it will motivate people and it will remind people.
“It will also monitor and evaluate and get those feedback loops so governments know how they’re doing and know how they can improve on their messages and channels.”
Professor Leask said that was especially important on social media, where misinformation could spread rapidly.
She also stressed the need to ensure the messages were getting through to a wide range of Australians.
“We’re a diverse country, and we’ll have specific communities where a really broad brush – like just putting something on the evening news – isn’t going to reach certain population groups,” she said.
“Having very specific and targeted approaches using the channels, spokespeople and influencers that those different communities use already is going to be very, very important.”
Mr Hunt said special committees representing Indigenous Australians, multicultural communities and people with a disability would ensure communications were appropriate.