Choice Creates COVID Controversy
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
Within a couple of hours of a controversial report on COVID vaccines being released, I had two blog readers contact me and suggest this would be a good topic for me because of mixed messaging. It's nice that when readers see communications in the media getting messed up, they wonder what my take would be.
My thoughts on this one may surprise people. Even though 142,000 Albertans booked a vaccination appointment through AHS last Thursday when bookings were opened to younger people, it's my firm belief many Canadians have decided which vaccine or vaccines they think are best, or at least have decided which one they don't want to get.
There's clearly a split between younger and older people too. While millennials don't really care what vaccine they get, baby boomers do.
McDavid, Draisaitl, or Whoever
Please imagine for a minute that you know little about hockey, but for some reason you’ve been given the job of selecting one player from each team for a new franchise in the NHL.
I know it doesn’t make sense, but work with me here.
You arrive in Edmonton and go to Rogers Place where the Oilers are practicing. You’re watching practice for a few minutes when a member of the Oilers' management comes by and takes a seat near you. You have the following conversation.
Oilers guy: Hey there. Have you made your mind up yet on who you’re selecting?
You: No I haven’t. It’s so hard to pick one player from each team.
Oilers guy: Why? They’re all the same. Just pick one.
You: I don’t know. But I do like that number 97. He seems faster than all the others and can really make moves with the puck.
Oilers guy: So, he’s your choice?
You: No, I’m still not sure. That number 29 looks good too. He seems like a really good passer and has a very accurate shot.
Oilers guy: Would you please just pick someone. They all do the same job. They’re all hockey players. Pick one!
This is obviously far fetched, but this is what’s been happening with vaccines in Canada for months.
The government keeps insisting they’re all the same. They do the same job, so when it’s your time, sign up and take what’s available. That’s been the message from all levels of government and health officials.
Many Canadians, because they have a choice in most cases, aren’t readily taking that advice. Millions have decided they would prefer Pfizer or Moderna over AstraZeneca. If you don’t believe me, why did so many baby boomers refuse to get vaccinated at AHS mass vaccination centres that were only offering AstraZeneca?
Obviously younger people aren’t as fussy, judging by the 100,000 plus who booked appointments in just a few hours in Alberta last Thursday. This morning when younger people were allowed to book an appointment thousands and thousands of others lined up online. In my opinion, there's a real difference in perceptions about vaccines and it's based on age.
I’m not an expert when it comes to vaccines and don’t pretend to be, but it’s clear to me that AstraZeneca has an image problem. Rightly or wrongly, it’s perceived as being not as good as the other two by many Canadians. Health Canada has even had concerns for AstraZeneca use by certain age groups and several countries have stopped using it in the past few weeks. That can’t help your brand image.
That’s why I did a silent fist pump when the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) came to the controversial conclusion that Pfizer and Moderna are preferable to AstraZeneca. NACI also said if people could wait to get one of those two they would be better off.
I know governments and health officials hated this conclusion by NACI because it creates more confusion, not less. They’re worried about vaccine hesitancy and this recommendation won’t do anything to help. That’s understandable because they want to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
What really hurts is mixed messaging. Once again, Canadians are wondering who they can believe.
But ask yourself this question. Didn’t NACI come out and say what many of us have been thinking, especially us baby boomers?
As much as I like the straight talk from NACI, I find it somewhat amusing we’re in the current situation.
This is the first time in my life that anyone seems to be concerned who made a vaccine and we’re getting it for free. We’re not paying for it - directly anyway.
I can remember being at Parkdale School in northeast Edmonton as a kid in the 60’s Once a year we would line up in front of the nurse’s office (yes each school used to have a full-time nurse on site) to get vaccinated for something. We never asked who made the stuff, nor did our parents. We just tried to look brave as we stood in line for the dreaded needle.
Just a few years ago, my family went to the Caribbean on holidays and we needed to get vaccinated for a whole list of illnesses that we don’t have to worry about here. Once again, my wife and I never asked who made the stuff.
Maybe it’s because the pandemic is the biggest story of our lifetimes, or perhaps it’s because we’re so used to having choice, but choice creates controversy. Many of us, when presented with too much choice, aren’t sure which one to buy, so we put off deciding. That’s what public health officials are worried about and that’s why they claim they all do the job, so take what you’re given.
When we walked into our favourite watering hole (remember doing that?) and we asked for our favourite cold IPA beer, we didn’t want to be told the place now only serves Molson Canadian and it’s in a bottle. We like choice. It’s western consumerism.
Vaccines are working the same way. Since we have choice, many of us will try to make an informed decision. Pharmacies have figured that out. That’s why they clearly tell you what they’re serving before you book. You won’t get there and find out they’re only serving Molson Canadian. In a bottle.
I’ve been vaccinated (Pfizer) and look forward to my second shot. I think almost everyone should get vaccinated. I also believe every vaccine approved in Canada can help prevent you from getting COVID. There’s no guarantee, but they all work.
My point is, I don’t think politicians and health care officials understand how the consumer’s mind works. When given a choice, people will try to make the best one and that always leads to perceptions about which product is better.
Choice creates controversy.