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Here’s how the Maryland Health Department is using $1.1 million to spread the word about COVID vaccines

About a month ago, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a $1.1 million public information outreach campaign to “inform, educate, and engage” Marylanders about COVID-19 vaccinations. Outreach about the vaccinations is needed as some of those hard hit communities are not being vaccinated at a high rate.

The Baltimore Sun asked the Maryland Department of Health how the money has been used so far, what’s planned next and if it thinks the campaign is reaching the people it needs to reach.

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So far the campaign has used social media extensively, including targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and videos posted on the state’s COVID site, according to a health department spokesman.

While the health department did not provide specifics, the spokesman said later this month, residents should look for online community town halls, more outreach from people who have health backgrounds, mobile vaccination clinics and podcasts.

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COVID case rates and vaccination sites by ZIP code

Sources: Maryland Department of Health, U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey

What’s the goal and message of the outreach campaign?

The goal is to “decrease vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine confidence” with emphasis on reaching communities that have been affected disproportionately by COVID-19 and/or have higher levels of vaccine hesitancy.

The campaign set out to reach all Maryland adults over age 18 as frequently as possible and provide a place for them to review information on the vaccines. Future key messages will focus on vaccine access issues including technology, transportation and vaccine locations. In addition to outreach efforts listed above, the plan will include, community-based advertising, a mobile sound truck and one-on-one canvassing.

How did the department decide that these were the best ways to reach people who need this information the most?

Local health departments, representatives of underserved and vulnerable populations, Governor Larry Hogan’s office, a variety of Maryland state agencies, various stakeholder groups and the Maryland Hospital Association and its members all provided input. Also, a variety of experts and research studies indicated that people are most influenced with regard to COVID-19 by trusted leaders and doctors representing their own communities. This information helped the development of the GoVAX campaign.

How do you know people are looking at the information provided on social media?

Since the launch, there have been over 40 million estimated combined impressions delivered from social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), digital, television, radio, out-of-home and print advertising in Maryland.

The initial numbers of the year-long campaign have exceeded expectations. Original projections called for an estimated 130 million impressions, meaning the campaign has achieved 30% of that goal in just six weeks. The Twitter campaign for GoVAX has served over 1.5 million impressions, received 10,000 Twitter engagements, 2,500 clicks to the website and resulted in over 336,000 video views. The GoVAX ambassador videos and other video content have resulted in over 6.8 million video views.

Who is doing the campaign and where did the money for the outreach come from?

The state health department selected GKV, an advertising agency, to develop the GoVAX campaign along with subcontractors REJ & Associates and Cool & Associates, to focus on messaging to the Black and Hispanic communities, respectively, according to an email from the department. The campaign is being paid for by money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act.)

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