RED BANK, NJ: HealthyWomen, a nonprofit health information source, has teamed up with Merck to launch "Lifetime of Vaccines," a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination throughout a lifetime.
It's estimated that more than 90% of young children in the US receive recommended vaccines. However, there is room for improvement for adults. At least 45,000 American adults die each year of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, while fewer than 1,000 Americans die of childhood diseases that are vaccine-preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Women focus so much on taking care of their children and making sure they're vaccinated that we forget about taking care of ourselves,” said Beth Battaglino, a registered nurse and CEO of HealthyWomen.
Noticing this need, her organization and Merck felt it was imperative to raise awareness about adult vaccinations that can be crucial to a woman's health.
Even when women are in front of their doctors, HealthyWomen has found many physicians forget to bring up vaccinations. The hope is that this campaign will encourage the average consumer to pick up the slack.
“It's not just the healthcare providers' responsibility, you need to educate yourself,” Battaglino said.
Merck is aiding HealthyWomen by sponsoring the campaign, Battaglino said. The pharmaceutical company tapped Zeno Group to provide PR support for the initiative.
Plans are underway for a satellite media tour and events around the country to raise awareness, she said. A social media strategy is also being drawn up. Outreach is taking place via the websites of HealthyWomen and Merck, as well as a Merck-sponsored page on WebMD.
Outreach efforts will first target three cities: Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; and Sacramento, CA. The cities were chosen due to low rates of immunization for adults and older adolescents, said Imraan Munshi, global communications lead for vaccines at Merck.
If it can move the needle in those cities, it will expand the initiative to other areas, Munshi said.
For Merck, the campaign posed a unique opportunity. “We usually take the approach of developing a campaign around individual products; this will give us the opportunity to develop a campaign that work across all of Merck's brands,” said Munshi.
While the campaign will largely be unbranded, the company hopes the effort will result in increased use of some vaccines that prevent shingles, Human papillomavirus (HPV), and other adult related conditions.
The CDC is also gearing up to launch several of its own vaccination-outreach initiatives. It has allocated around $6.5 million to fund campaigns that will target audiences ranging from pre-teens to adults, seniors, and medical providers.