MSD: Communication Plan for “Bakuna Muna” Campaign
Finding A Cure For Lost Confidence
In 2016, Sanofi Pasteur’s Dengvaxia was introduced and administered to over 800,000 children through a school-based immunization (SBI) program. By 2018, the government stopped the program due to controversies around the vaccine’s effects.
Online misinformation soon followed the growth of social media in the Philippines. The panic in social media politicized the state of vaccination in the country. It wasn’t long until SBI lost its credibility among parents.
Trust in vaccines dropped from 82 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2020. Children couldn’t understand the importance of vaccines and decision-makers didn’t prioritize re-educating the new generation. Experts say this was a contributing factor to the resurgence of local polio and measles cases.
Because of this, local health workers were frowned upon by the public in their attempts to re-introduce the benefits of vaccines to children. Accusations that the vaccines would do more harm than good to the children ran rampant.
Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) wanted to address the issue, hoping to restore the country’s trust in vaccines. With vaccines being highly politicized, the multinational company called for a bottom-up approach to addressing the problem—aiming to inform and educate Filipinos at the grassroots level.
How do they tell their message in a way that connects with all the stakeholders involved at an emotional level? The communication plan included utilizing emotional storytelling to connect with all stakeholders, including local healthcare workers, officials, and teachers, who were identified as critical influencers in Filipino communities.
A community-first approach. The campaign was aiming to train front liners in addressing questions related to vaccines. This meant equipping them with tailor-made communication materials in an effort to improve vaccine uptake in their respective communities. M2.0 held stakeholder interviews with local healthcare workers to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges they encounter when it comes to encouraging vaccination. We wanted to know who they are and what are their pain points with regards to vaccination.
A roundtable discussion was initiated among mothers, teachers, and doctors to build a narrative based on real life experiences. M2.0 developed educational materials on the importance of vaccination for family health.
Content and visuals were tailored on key concerns of different target audiences—children, parents, and seniors. This included informational leaflets, presentations, and videos.
The campaign had one main call: ‘Bakuna Muna!’ (Vaccines First!) The goal behind the slogan was to encourage the public to refocus the conversation on the fundamental realities of public health, with the health and safety of people as the priority.
MSD’s training program was endorsed by the League of Cities Philippines (LCP), a government secretariat comprising 145 member-cities around the country. LCP currently serves as the main channel for rolling out the Bakuna Muna! program. The communications agency also spearheaded support efforts for the program, including a social media campaign and a dedicated website
While vaccine hesitancy continues to be a major issue in the Philippines, bottom-up communication plans for communications campaigns are critical in restoring the public’s confidence in one of the most proven ways to protect people against harmful diseases.