AT A GLANCE: DoH flu jab campaign targets youngsters

Flu jabs are just for old people, right?
That is certainly the perception. But this year, the Department of Health’s annual flu campaign, launched last Friday, recommends that you should also get the jab if you have a serious heart or respiratory condition or diabetes – whatever your age.

Who is handling PR for the campaign?
The Forster Company is in charge of comms for the DoH. Damian Wilson is the agency’s project manager, responsible for campaign strategy. Account director is Meg Baker. Media coverage this week included BBC Radio 1, Radio 4’s Today, GMTV and BBC Breakfast.

How is Forster conveying the message?
Dr David Salisbury, DoH director of immunisation, has been used as a spokesman on various media outlets. But the campaign is concentrating on co-opting support from patient groups and has received third-party support from organisations such as Diabetes UK, the British Heart Foundation and The Stroke Association. Coverage on BBC Breakfast this week included a case study from Asthma UK.

What has been the main thrust of the programme?
To emphasise that two million people are at risk and that flu contributes to 25,000 deaths each winter. Next month, a media relations campaign will target mothers of at-risk children.

What is the main challenge?
In a word, complacency. Every autumn the Government has to find a new way to extol the virtues of the flu jab – especially to the less obvious at-risk groups. The over-65s seem fairly clued up (last year, 74 per cent of them had the vaccine) but last year almost 60 per cent of people in at-risk groups below the age of 65 were not inoculated.

How can that be overcome?
Traditional media relations alone do not seem to be enough to shift opinion among younger people. Wilson says that more ‘social marketing’ will be employed. He admits that the uptake among younger at-risk groups ‘is not improving as much as we would like’ and Forster is undertaking an online survey to find out what the barriers are to having the jab. The fruits of that survey are likely to be of more use in next year’s campaign.

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