Federal officials, scrambling to make up for lost time after a halting start, are rushing to roll out a $250 million public education campaign to encourage Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine, which will reach the first patients in the United States this week.
Officials acknowledge the effort will be a complicated one. It must compete with public doubt and mistrust of government programs amid deep political divisions created in part by a president who has spent much of the year belittling government scientists, promoting ineffective treatments and dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic — and is now rushing to claim credit for a vaccine that he has made a priority.
“When you have an anti-science element together with a divisiveness in the country, it will be challenging,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said in an interview on Friday, while declining to talk specifically about President Trump. “But you know, we’ve done challenging things before.”
The Building Vaccine Confidence campaign, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, will unfold in an atmosphere of hope as vaccinations begin — but also despair as daily death tolls from COVID-19 approach 2,500 and the United States nears 300,000 total deaths. The campaign is part of a broader public relations effort that was initially supposed to feature celebrities whom the administration considered friendly to the president but came under scrutiny from Democrats who called it propaganda intended to re-elect Trump.
The education campaign includes:
* A new website, www.combatCOVID.hhs.gov, with the first pages focusing on vaccine and treatment clinical trails. The site had a soft launch on November 24, and a Spanish-language version debuted on December 9.
* "Slow the Spread" campaign, featuring radio, social media, and print ads designed to deliver scientific messaging in a way that connects emotionally and breaks through across audiences. These efforts will begin in mid-December and continue at least through January 2021.
* "Tell Me More" campaign focused on radio and digital ads, and making HHS experts available for media interviews. These efforts began in early December and will continue through March.
View HHS presentation on the education campaign: https://int.nyt.com/data/documenttools/vaccine-public-campaign-plan/062a...