New GSK campaign works to raise adult vaccine awareness—and counter COVID-19 slump

GlaxoSmithKline GSK House in Brentford, UK
Vaccination education and safety during COVID-19 are part of GlaxoSmithKline's new vaccine awareness campaign. (GSK)

GlaxoSmithKline has a goal when it comes to vaccine awareness: Boost education enough so that when people turn 50, they recognize age-recommended vaccines as automatically as they know it's time to get a colonoscopy. 

To work toward that benchmark, the company debuted its first general vaccine awareness campaign in the U.S. this month. The multichannel effort keys in on life moments, with the message that they’re made possible by vaccines.

The “Brought to You by Vaccines” campaign includes TV, digital, social media and public relations and will run through mid-2021.

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The campaign will also include safety messages about how healthcare practitioners and pharmacies have worked to ensure safe, clean access for vaccinations during the pandemic.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline debuts DTC campaign for Shingrix amid COVID-19-related vaccination dive

With flu season around the corner, the vaccine push is especially relevant as the U.S. continues to see waves of COVID-19 infections. Public health officials warn of a potential “twindemic” crisis if both viral infections surge at the same time this fall.

The other issue is a recurrent one—low vaccination rates among adults—made worse by the pandemic. Fewer than half of U.S. adults received most of the recommended vaccines even before the pandemic. But by May, according to IQVIA data, adult vaccination ordering rates had dropped an average of 62%.

“Preventative health services of all kinds have taken a hit and declined due to the pandemic, so whatever we can do to raise awareness and motivate people is important,” said Judy Stewart, GSK senior VP and head of U.S. vaccines.

GSK commissioned The Harris Poll to survey older adults ages 50 to 79 to find out exactly what was happening during the pandemic. The mid-summer survey found that along with dropping well visit rates, there was a knowledge gap about recommended vaccines. For instance, about 1 in 4 older Americans had never heard of vaccines for pneumonia (30%), shingles (27%), or tetanus, diptheria and pertussis, called Tdap (29%).

RELATED: Multiple COVID-19 vaccines? That's what it could take, GSK CEO Walmsley says

One positive finding from the survey was that thanks to the pandemic, 72% surveyed said they now realize how important vaccines are for everyone. However, the not-so-good news was that only 47% said they were likely to get at least one recommended vaccine. More than half (52%) of older adults said they were "very likely" to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

“We’re seeing people, especially now, recognize the importance of vaccination, but there is still a motivation to change behavior that we need to improve both at GSK and as an industry,” Stewart said. “Because when there is a (COVID-19) vaccine, it doesn’t help anyone if no one takes it.”

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