DSHS announces new COVID-19 vaccine ad campaign featuring vaccine-hesitant Texans who got the shot

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Department of State Health Services is switching up its vaccine advocacy approach. 

On Tuesday, DSHS launched a new COVID-19 education campaign about vaccinations. Rather than spotlighting doctors and medical experts, the new campaign will “feature real Texans telling their own unique stories about getting vaccines.”

While one-on-one conversations with physicians continue to be the most effective way to sway unvaccinated Texans, telling stories that people can connect with is also beneficial, explained DSHS spokesperson Doug Loveday.

“We hope it’s going to inform people and maybe strike a chord within them that then might get them to realize the benefits of getting vaccinated,” said Loveday, “And that may be something that they weren’t receiving, just hearing from experts and things like that.”

But Nick VinZant, a research analyst at QuoteWizard, believes the situation is not that simple in Texas. According to QuoteWizard’s polling, people’s reasoning for not getting vaccinated changes by the day.

VinZant said the group surveyed more than 1 million Texans and about 38 million Americans about every two weeks. He said, unlike other states that followed specific trends, analysts like himself found themselves scratching their heads over the results in Texas.

“Texas is kind of all over the place in their reasons as to why they won’t get vaccinated, whereas other states fit a specific pattern,” he said. “Initially 23% of Texans said they weren’t getting vaccinated because they didn’t think COVID was a threat. That number dropped a month ago. Now it’s back up.”

Here were the findings of the most recent poll:

  • 45% are worried about side effects
  • 23% don’t believe they need it
  • 45% are waiting to see if it’s safe
  • 42% don’t trust COVID-19 vaccines
  • 31% don’t trust the government

People surveyed were able to select numerous reasons for why they are hesitant about the vaccine, so that is why the total numbers do not add up to 100 percent.

VinZant blames these discrepancies on lawmakers’ mixed messaging and politicization of the vaccine.

“They’ll say one thing, and then the next week, they’ll say another thing. And those reasons just don’t jive together, they don’t make sense,” he said. “There has been an early politicization of coronavirus, and the vaccine, and that has continued to filter down and people are not changing their minds.”

VinZant believes the solution is consistency from government leaders.

“If the state is trying to get more people vaccinated, something that we have found in Texas and nationwide is that message has to be crystal clear and consistent, especially now that we’re talking about the possibility of getting children vaccinated,” VinZant said.

With less than 63 percent of Texans 12 and under-vaccinated, public health officials are stressing messaging about vaccine safety and efficacy now more than ever.

“The data gathered shows the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of rare side effects. Most importantly, vaccination is proven to greatly increase our protection against severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and even death,” said DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt.

In addition to DSHS’ new ad campaign, the department also resumed its pop-up events at Walmarts across the state. These events feature a video wall displaying local spokespeople discussing the importance of getting vaccinated as well as vaccine advocates available to answer anyone’s questions.

“In these high traffic areas we’ve got folks coming in, speaking to us and then going into Walmart, and they’re getting vaccinated, and they’ll actually come back out into the parking lot and tell the folks there on the ground, ‘hey, I got vaccinated,’ so it’s pretty cool,” Loveday said.

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