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OTT LUMI: CELEBRITIES SET AN EXAMPLE FOR VACCINATION

The public is not clear on the vaccination plan, nor on the obligations and responsibilities of the parties involved, or the indicators for assessing the success of vaccination activities. If such a plan exists in Estonia, it is skillfully hidden, writes communication expert Ott Lumi.

Society is organized through three functions: communication, the rule of law, and money. The cheapest of these is communication, which is used by smart communities and costs several times less than changing misconceptions that have taken root later.

For example, people are currently being fined for not wearing a mask, but only half a year ago some scientists said a mask was pointless. Now the only thing we can do is to react with money, as the richest countries can afford an endless supply of hospital beds and some state budgets seem to be made of rubber.

The HOIA app turned out to be a disappointment. The lack of a coordinated campaign by developers and the state became fatal..

In Coronavirus communication the most important preventive action, undoubtedly, is to keep infection low. However, the largest prevention project, the HOIA app, turned out to be disappointing. The initiative’s lack of a coordinated campaign by developers and the state turned out to be fatal. Spending only 200,000 euros in circumstances where the volume of the Estonian advertising market exceeds 150 million euros a year, seems ridiculously cheap in a significant crisis. In addition, it is known that the Russian speaking target group primarily uses social media and watches YouTube more than the national average. Yet these channels were drastically underutilized.

In contrast, the success of the Finnish analogue, Koronavilkku, was based on both a good product and joint communication by the state health board and the private sector. Our Northern neighbors have benefitted from their very high level of trust in the state, people’s readiness to contribute to resolving the crisis themselves, and the successful implementation of an extensive advertising campaign.

At present, the spearhead of communication should be pointed towards vaccination. However, the public is not clear on the vaccination plan, nor the obligations and responsibilities of the parties involved, or the indicators for assessing the success of the activities. If such a plan exists in Estonia, it is skillfully hidden, as are the results of the relevant measurements.

A population survey published in mid-January found that 47% of respondents were unsure about vaccination. With such a large number of people hesitant, a large-scale nationwide campaign should have been launched, not the publication of individual opinions. In addition, it remains unclear where and how residents who do not speak Estonian are approached. The injection process of nurses and caregivers, as well as public surveys, clearly showed that there are more who are hesitant about vaccination in the non-Estonian category.

What’s more, the paper Põhjarannik wrote at the end of January that communication about vaccination will not begin in Ida-Virumaa until May. As there would not be enough vaccines in the country earlier than that. And this all happened in a situation where, as is well-known, hostile forces are engaged in disseminating false information in a focused manner, especially to the Russian-speaking target group. There is active incitement for the Sputnik vaccine and against vaccines authorized in the European Union.

Past experience shows that model-based, precisely targeted activities bring success in communication. A good example comes from the United States polio campaign, which took place in several waves and where messages were forwarded by respected and well-known persons, such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Ella Fitzgerald.

In Estonia, well-known persons like Anne Veski or Mihhail Kõlvart, could also be engaged in informing the Russian-speaking community.

Australia’s still most successful Covid-19 vaccination campaign, “Safe, Effective and Free”, which cost $24 million (€15.4 million), was also based on positive examples. Many ethnicities live together in the country. Indigenous Australians had to be approached differently: respected spokesmen in local communities used social media to convey messages.

Does the tree fall when we hear it and see it, or is it enough when a politician describes how the tree fell?

Among others, the government also focused specifically on women in their 30s, who were more likely to become pregnant. As a result, the number of young women in the target group who considered vaccination to be completely safe, increased by 15%. Social listening was actively used to refute misinformation: social media tried to catch groups who spread misrepresentations, and these were corrected as quickly as possible.

Without a detailed vaccination plan, even the most awe-inspiring communication plan will not work. The Minister of Health and Labor has somehow expressed the idea that a vaccination plan has been around for a long time. But does the tree fall when we hear it and see it, or is it enough when a politician describes how the tree fell?

We can do nothing but comfort ourselves in the thought that we are not alone. The situation in Latvia is similar to Estonia, in terms of both the content and communication of the vaccination plan, but with the difference that Latvian politicians publicly curse officials by name, and have apologized to the people for their administrative inability.

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