In Depth

Jab campaign: how ‘sensible’ celebrities will sell Covid vaccine to sceptics

Insiders says Marcus Rashford and members of Royal Family being eyed up for NHS campaign to counter anti-vax theories

NHS bosses are planning to enlist “sensible” celebrities and social media influencers for a campaign to persuade the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19, according to insiders.

An NHS England source told The Guardian that the health service wants “people who are known and loved” such as footballer Marcus Rashford [pictured top], and who “have done sensible stuff during the pandemic”, to promote the jabs. The planned push comes amid growing fears that the spread of anti-vax theories online could jeopardise an effective rollout.

Why are health leaders concerned?

Hopes are growing that “the first of three potentially promising vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech, of which the UK has secured 40 million doses – is set for regulatory approval within days”, says The Guardian. The government has also secured 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and has increased the nation’s order for the Moderna jab to seven million doses.

But health chiefs are increasingly “worried about the number of people who are still undecided” about whether to get innoculated, and “about vaccine scepticism among NHS staff”, the newspaper reports.

 “Some experts estimate a Covid-19 vaccine will need to be accepted by at least 55% of the population to provide herd immunity”, says the i news site. “Others suggest even higher numbers will be needed, such as 65% to 70%.”

However, a recent survey of 4,000 people by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that just 54% would “definitely” accept a vaccine. And “after being shown online misinformation, that number dropped by 6.4%”, according to a report on the university’s website. 

What is the NHS planning?

Health service insiders say that celebrities and social media influencers will be enlisted to help combat misinformation about any Covid vaccine that is rolled out in the UK. 

The Daily Mail reports that health bosses and government ministers are in talks with “responsible” high-profile stars to post positive messages about the jab.

“No celebrities have been confirmed but officials suggest Marcus Rashford, the England footballer campaigning to end child hunger, and members of the Royal Family would be ideal,” says the paper.

A source “with knowledge of the plans” told The Guardian that the high-profile figures who sign up will lead “a big national campaign” to drive take-up.  

Politicians are not expected to join the line-up of trusted faces, however.

Instead, the celebs are likely to appear alongside “doctors who often appear on television and radio discussing health issues”, because of their “profile and the trust they are assumed to already have with the public”, the paper continues.

“Religious and community leaders are also being consulted in order to allay possible fears over the vaccine among black, Asian and ethnic minorities,” says the Daily Mail.

“Covid-19 vaccines will be crucial to helping to end this pandemic and returning our lives to near normal,” said Professor Heidi Larson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who led the recent survey on vaccine uptake. 

“However, vaccines only work if people take them.”

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