Why connecting emotionally is the key for Covax uptake success

Issue 1, February 2021

"Why connecting emotionally is the key for Covax uptake success"

The Government’s communication around Covax is off to a solid start – but we need to avoid the big mistake made by similar campaigns in other countries.

Don’t let the facts get in the way of an emotional connection.

Why is emotion critical in effective communications?

Persuasion is about finding the sweet spot between science and emotion – in being informative, and in stimulating an emotional response. Ninety percent of the reasons a human being makes a decision is based on emotion, ten percent on logic.

So, what’s the problem?

Governments around the world are struggling with persuading hesitant populations to have the Covax injection because communication is too fact-based.

At the core of vaccine hesitancy are perceptions about risk and safety: Does the person feel at risk of catching Covid? Do they believe its impacts could be serious? And, do they believe the vaccine is safe and effective?

Hesitancy is not due to lack of information. More information does not ensure more uptake. Underpinning hesitancy is a deep-rooted mistrust of vaccinations. In fact, in the US, one-third of Americans say they ‘probably or definitely’ would refuse the vaccine.

The good news is that Australia has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Vaccinating is an Australian social norm. For vaccines to be effective in ending pandemics, vaccination rates will need to exceed 70% of the population, minimum.

Covid-19 has changed the stakes.

While an overwhelming majority of Australians plan to get the Covax vaccine, Newspoll reports a significant 25% of voters said they would refuse vaccination or were undecided. Levels of scepticism are high in the community.

Populations are concerned about how scientists have managed to deliver safe Covid-19 vaccinations in just 10 months. Misinformation about the efficacy and safety of the various vaccines on the market abound.

Fear and uncertainty are building.

The Five Covax Communications Success Factors

Since the attitudes and behaviours associated with vaccination are very malleable, the Covax uptake will be significantly impacted by the effectiveness of communications, based around these five most critical communications imperatives.

1. Storytelling – Tell stories, don’t just inundate with facts 

The most powerful way to connect emotionally with a human being is through stories.

Stories and anecdotes about those affected positively by vaccinations are more likely to be effective than statistics. People want to hear about other people.

Understanding and harnessing the power behind storytelling needs to be the central persuasive marketing tool as Governments roll-out the vaccine.

Early stories can be around how the vaccines were developed, how they work, how HCPs are supporting them, and then- as positive case studies emerge – stories of success.

2. Turn up the ‘MICRophones’ – Most important Covax Referrers 

Who do we listen to most in a crisis? Our HCP’s. So, a recommendation from an HCP could be the strongest determinate of a vaccine’s acceptance.

HCPs are the most critical influencers and trusted advisors in vaccine confidence.

Communicating to HCPs about the vital role they play in talking to and reassuring patients about the need to have the vaccine is central to Covax success in Australia.

3. Right message for each audience – One size does not fit all 

When it comes to Covax messaging, tailoring communication to each audience is critical. One message will simply not work with all groups we need to persuade. Each person’s vaccine journey is different based on their priority stage, and level of motivation.

How well a particular message will be received depends on a variety of factors, including an individual’s political affiliation, race, ethnicity, age and location. Key to bespoke messaging per audience will be identifying their major concerns.

Simply telling people, “the science says it’s fine” is unlikely to prove a winning strategy. And campaigns that attempt to shame people into receiving the vaccine will be met with the same scepticism. Instead, emphasize what can be gained from immunity, and open up the dialogue, allowing people to voice their addressable concerns.

4. Right messenger for the right audiences – maximise influencer impact

The right influencers and opinion leaders are powerful, credible persuaders with defined audiences. It’s critical that communications carefully matches influencers with audiences where they resonate, have credibility, are seen as role models and will have a positive impact. Again, one size does not fit all.

For example, Lady Gaga would be a powerful influencer with certain groups, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with quite different audiences, cricketer Steve Smith with others. Influencers and opinion leaders can make a big and positive difference to Covax uptake. Just make sure the match-making is spot on.

5. Make Vaccinating Highly Visible – familiarity creates acceptance

Distributing vaccinations where people spend considerable time is important. The Government’s plans to enlist pharmacies around Australia, for example, to provide Covax vaccinations is a perfect example of this.

In some centres in the UK, local cathedrals have been used, or other central high traffic venues of note. The key is for people to see other people getting vaccinated. It’s a highly effective way of overcoming the trust issue. People tend to think and act like their friends and families, which encourages adoption of behaviour.

Following these 5 key points will help ensure a successful Covax uptake, but the most important factor to remember is the emotional aspects of the communication.

While we are all numbers, we are people first – and this cannot be forgotten when widespread uptake is critical for us as a community.


Simon Davies
M: 0402 425 545


Dan King
M: 0439 190 700


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