With an additional $9.5 million in ads, Michigan plans to ‘keep trying’ to boost COVID vaccinations

Michigan passed the 6 million mark vaccinated as the timeline moved to 2022.

In the nearly five full months since then, the state has seen fewer than 235,000 people receive their first COVID-19 vaccine, including nearly 25,000 in April and fewer than 16,000 so far. in May.

Vaccine uptake has advanced at a blistering pace since late last summer, but the state still believes more recalcitrant residents can be convinced to get vaccinated.

After spending more than $77.6 million in state and federal funds on its vaccine advertising campaign in 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, Michigan has allocated an additional $9.5 million for the months of April. to June, according to data requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). and obtained by MLive.

“Much more needs to be done to encourage people in Michigan to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical officer.

“When we look at age group and racial and ethnic background, as long as we see this heterogeneous adoption of vaccines across the state, and as long as we see that we don’t have equity, and as long as ‘There are groups out there who may not be getting the full message and may not be getting all the information they need – until then I think we’ll keep trying.

The funds allocated for the second quarter of 2022 are federal dollars allocated specifically for communications and advocacy, including vaccine hesitancy and equitable access, according to MDHHS. Third quarter funding has not yet been determined.

Bagdasarian said she was not the right person to comment on the cost of the campaign, but said the message was necessary from a public health perspective.

The state’s top doctor referred financial matters to MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin, who agreed that promoting vaccinations is important.

“It is worth our time and effort to promote messages that continue to raise awareness, educate residents and encourage vaccinations/booster shots to advance community immunity and reduce risk for all residents,” Sutfin said. .

She added that adoption is still expected to decline as more people get vaccinated, but there are still Michiganders “who are still hesitant but willing to consider getting vaccinated.” .

The state said it is evaluating its vaccine advertising campaign using multiple metrics, including vaccine uptake, surveys that measure changes in perception, COVID-19 vaccine focus groups 19 and social media insights that monitor the evolution of vaccine hesitancy conversations.

Based on the feedback it receives, the state said, it tailors its messaging with a focus on equitable access to vaccines. Much of the recent messaging has been aimed at children and parents, with children aged 5-11 now eligible and the under-5 group expected to become eligible this summer.

“If it was just that there were sections of the population that weren’t going to get vaccinated no matter what, and it was the same in every community, I think that would be less of a concern for me. “, Bagdasarian said.

“But what we’re seeing is that there are communities that are being left behind… Until we’re able to make sure that we’ve really done our due diligence in terms of fairness, I plan to continue.”

COVID vaccination rates are highest among older populations. More than 86% of residents aged 65 and over have received at least one vaccine. About 76% of residents aged 50 to 64 have been vaccinated, as have about 66% of those in their 30s and 40s and 55% of those aged 16 to 29.

Children, who were eligible for the shortest period, have the lowest rates. About 49% of 12 to 15 year olds have been vaccinated, while less than 29% of 5 to 11 year olds have been vaccinated.

Bagdasarian said communities with low vaccination rates among school-aged children are a focus, with the goal of keeping schools open through the fall when cases are expected to spike again. That’s where she said vaccine messages need to be targeted.

“We won’t be able to keep children in school, we won’t be able to stop epidemics from happening and school closures from happening with vaccination rates that are just so low,” she said. declared. “We’re just not where we need to be in terms of protecting those communities.”

As an example, she pointed to the city of Detroit, where 14% of children ages 5 to 11 — and 25.6% of residents ages 5 to 19 — had been vaccinated as of Wednesday, May 25. In Detroit, approximately 50% of all eligible residents are vaccinated, which is below the national average of 66%.

Twenty-five of Michigan’s counties reported lower youth vaccination rates than Detroit. The worst was Oscoda, with 18 children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated out of 617 (2.9%). The county is followed by Sanilac (7.9%), Hillsdale (9.3%), Ogemaw (9.6%), Osceola (10.6%), Lake (11.5%) and Cass (11.6 %).

“As long as we have pockets in our community where vaccination rates are closer to 10%, that means we’re not doing enough to protect those age groups and those communities,” Bagdasarian said. “We need to do more, clearly.”

There also continue to be disparities in vaccination rates between races and ethnic groups. The Asian/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander population has the highest vaccination rate at 67%, followed by the Hispanic population at 64% and the Native American/Alaska Native population at 60%. White residents are vaccinated at 56.6%, while black residents are the least vaccinated group at 45.5%.

The highest youth vaccination rates are also highest among the Asian/Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander population (66.8%) and lowest among the black population (28.7%).

To address adoption differences, Bagdasarian said Michigan is working with its Racial Disparities Task Force to hold focus groups and talk to parents to understand what messages work and what information is needed to help them settle. feel safe to vaccinate their children.

“I think messaging will continue to evolve as we learn more about trusted messengers in some of these age groups and demographics, as we learn more about the misinformation that’s out there,” he said. she declared.

Michiganders can expect to see messages about the COVID-19 vaccine on various channels, including television, radio, billboards and social media, for as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Even after that, the state plans seasonal communications similar to the annual flu vaccine messages.

“We plan to continue ongoing campaigns, messaging and outreach while the pandemic remains a threat to the people of Michigan, especially our most vulnerable residents,” Sutfin said. “We will also continue to promote the vaccine as new age groups become eligible and new recommendations are made regarding booster doses.”

If you have any questions about COVID-19 that you would like answered, please submit them to [email protected] to consider for future MLive reports.

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