Division and blame: How these young people feel about the government’s vaccine ad

A Federal Government advertisement showing a young person struggling to breathe on a ventilator has attracted a sea of criticism online. The Feed spoke to four young Australians to find out what they thought.

vaccine

Kate (left) and James (right) were critical of the COVID vaccine ad. Source: Supplied

The Federal Government has come under fire after releasing an advertisement showing a young person struggling to breathe on a ventilator, despite her age group being ineligible to get Pfizer vaccinations.

The ad, which was targeted at those living in Sydney, reads “COVID can affect anyone” and encourages viewers to “book a vaccination”.

The vaccine ad quickly attracted backlash online. 
A new ad aims to motivate young people to get vaccinated.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly says a new TV ad is intended to be "graphic" to motivate people to stay home and get vaccinated. Source: Supplied

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Critics pointed out that many young people have and that they’re currently ineligible for Pfizer, the vaccine currently recommended for those under 40.

Others argued that the advertisement would be distressing to young people who are already under the weight of the state’s lockdown.

The Feed spoke to four young people to find out how they felt about the ad and whether it would convince them to get vaccinated. 

It creates ‘division and blame’

Emmy is in her early 20s and is currently enduring lockdown in Sydney. 

She told The Feed she’s concerned the government’s advertisement will provoke further anxiety among those who are in isolation.

“When I first watched the ad I felt threatened and blamed, uncomfortable and frightened,” Emmy said.

“I understand the importance of confronting the realities of this virus, however using scare tactics to promote vaccination is, in my opinion, unnecessary and ineffective.”



Emmy considers herself to be in a privileged position as she still lives at home and is supported by her family.

She said the ad creates “division and blame” by targeting a specific generation when the main message should be to get vaccinated.

“The ad could have instead included simple, clear and helpful information about how to apply and access a vaccine.”

‘It makes sense to target young people’

Diana is in her mid-20s and also in lockdown in Sydney. She said the ad made her realise what having a severe case of COVID-19 would look like.

“It made COVID feel scarier, particularly with the way they portrayed the woman breathing desperately,” Diana said.

Diana said she’s felt a bit of “cabin fever” throughout the pandemic as her various international travel plans were cancelled.



Unlike Emmy, who was unsure about the effectiveness of the ad, Diana said the commercial had made her more eager to get vaccinated.

“I think young people may think that COVID might not affect them much so this helps younger people to realise it may affect them too,” she told The Feed.

“Young people seem to be the ones that mostly carry and spread the disease so it makes sense to target them.”

UNSW infection control expert Professor Marylouise McLaws told The Feed last week that young people should have been offered Pfizer sooner.
A medical staffer at Midtown Medical Clinic prepares a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, 5 July, 2021.
A medical staffer at Midtown Medical Clinic prepares a dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, 5 July, 2021. Source: AAP

She said young people have a bigger social network, and as a result, they’ve had a larger burden of infection.

“We're just focusing on the elderly, we're focusing on the privileged, and we're not focusing on the struggling, you know, 20 to 39-year-old group,” Professor McLaws said.

“If you really want to protect the elderly, put these young things at the front of the queue and then you won't have transmission.”

‘The onus has been unfairly put on young people’

Kate, 25,  told The Feed she felt frustrated by the ad. She said it felt unfair that young people are being told to get vaccinated while many are struggling to do so.

“What are we meant to do when we’re told to vaccinate, but can’t?” she said.

“I can imagine for any young person in Sydney right now, the ad would make them feel helpless and anxious.”



Kate lives in Melbourne, where she experienced months of lockdowns. She’s already booked her AstraZeneca jab as she wanted to get it done “ASAP”.

Kate worked in retail throughout Melbourne’s lockdowns last year and said it was “incredibly stressful.”

“Young people are serving you at the grocery store, at frontline risk of COVID, but we can’t get vaccinated,” she said.

“Then after a long day of work, we see the ad and are reminded just how much we’re at risk.”

‘Target the vaccine hesitant’

James is a proud Wiradjuri man in his mid-20s who has been fully vaccinated with two Pfizer jabs. 

He said he found the COVID ad so distressing that he could “barely watch it”.

Like Kate, James feels those who are most at-risk of dying with the virus should have been targeted by the ads - rather than young people.

The older generations 100 per cent should be the focus of the vaccine campaign,” he said.

“They’re most at risk, they’re part of the groups currently eligible, and yet seem to be the most hesitant.

“Perhaps reminding them of the consequences of COVID could get them to reconsider their vaccine hesitancy.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt Source: AAP


Health Minister: ‘Don’t think you’re immune’

On Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt was asked whether the Sydney vaccine ad was appropriate, considering the shortage of Pfizer jabs.

The controversial ad was released in Sydney at the same time as the ‘Arm Yourself’ campaign, which will air nationwide.

Mr Hunt told reporters the campaign sends the message “that all of us can play our part in protecting ourselves and each other.”

He said the “confronting ad” featuring the young actor had been deliberately constructed and prepared in anticipation of a major outbreak.
Experts have welcomed the release of a new Australian ad campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, but say the messaging needs to be improved.
Experts have welcomed the release of a new Australian ad campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, but say the messaging needs to be improved. Source: Supplied

Mr Hunt said the ad, which was produced separately last year, was approved by the Chief Medical Officer as being the appropriate time of release. 

“That message is very clear and that is: please stay at home. Do not think that you are immune,” he said.

“It's conscious and it's deliberate. It's challenging and it's confronting but we know that young people can play a huge role in helping to prevent the spread of COVID simply by staying home.”

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the Australian government had specifically commissioned the ad because of the intensifying outbreak in NSW. 

"We are only doing this because of the situation in Sydney and it will be running in Sydney," he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.  

"It is quite graphic and it is meant to be graphic - it is meant to really push that message home."


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6 min read
Published 12 July 2021 at 4:21pm
By Eden Gillespie
Source: SBS