A term taking center focus right now is vaccine hesitancy. As the general public is being strongly encouraged to take their place in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, some people are resisting; experiencing vaccine hesitancy. The resulting countermeasure is tagged vaccine confidence, meaning to establish trust in what is the only current way of eradicating COVID-19.
Just about a year ago, we were getting together with friends, hugging loved ones, going out to eat, seeing movies, going shopping, traveling, and engaging in the many other activities and pursuits that we enjoyed and often took for granted. Remember those times? Much of that came to a screeching halt when the country started experiencing the horrifying impact of COVID-19. The worst health crisis in a generation has sickened and killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, closed businesses, stores, and restaurants, wreaked havoc on our economy…the list goes on and on.
Operation Warp Speed (OWS)
Largely through an initiative called Operation Warp Speed (OWS), there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. To date, two vaccines created by Pfizer and Moderna have been developed and tested and are being distributed to prevent people from becoming sick with COVID. More are likely on the way. The spread of information, misinformation, and confusing information is almost as quick as that of the virus. However, one thing is painfully clear. Without the vaccine, there is no end of COVID -19 in sight.
So let’s take a look at some of the credible information made available by leading experts in health, medical science, and infectious disease in order to help understand more about the impact of COVID-19 and the hopeful eventual eradication of the disease through the use of the vaccine.
Some Background About Vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a vaccine as “a product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.”
There’s a long and interesting history about vaccines. What’s important to know in terms of vaccine confidence right now, is that vaccines are not new. The first official vaccine dates back to 1796 in England, when one was developed to combat smallpox. This was a devastating disease that, over many hundreds of years, killed countless people. Over many years it was refined and eventually used worldwide. The 33rd World Health Assembly cited that “eradication of smallpox is considered the biggest achievement in international public health.”
Eradication of a deadly disease through vaccination. That sounds exactly like what we’re hoping for now.
Other diseases successfully eliminated or significantly limited through vaccines are polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, and rubella. So vaccines have a long, proven, and invaluable track record.
By the Numbers
COVID-19 has played a devastating role in the deaths of more than 400,000 Americans. This number is climbing every day.
There’s a lot of skepticism about the reported number, as some people suspect it’s inflated; that COVID is being blamed for deaths because it is present in the body of the deceased but not necessarily the actual direct cause. The thought is that the number is being greatly exaggerated as a scare tactic or even as a hoax. For the purposes of defending the importance of the vaccine, however, consider this sobering fact. While complete data isn’t in yet, preliminary numbers show that more than 3.2 million Americans died in 2020. This is at least 400,000 more Americans that died in 2020, than in 2019. This 15% increase, which could go higher when final numbers are in, marks the largest single-year percentage increase in American deaths since 1918. That was a year when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in WWI, and hundreds of thousands of Americans died because of the flu pandemic. These numbers make it reasonably easy to connect the dots on the direct or indirect mortality rate of COVID-19. There’s a lot of COVID out there and a lot of people dying from it, whether or not it’s the direct cause.
Add to that the fact that thousands of more people who are surviving the disease are dealing with prolonged debilitating conditions.
Furthermore, the number of people seriously impacted by COVID have put a serious strain on our hospitals and especially our ICUs.
Look at the numbers however you choose. COVID-19 is devastating.
Is Warp Speed Too Fast?
The good news is also the frightening news?
The term ‘warp speed’ became sci-fi talk in the mid-1900s, made popular by Dr. Spock, Captain Kirk, and Scottie as they talked about the phenomenal pace of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek. What is fun and exciting for the speed of a fictional space vessel becomes more intimidating when talking about the rate of developing a major health initiative. People worry, and rightly so, that something we’re being encouraged to inject into our bodies came about fast, awfully fast. While people are glad that there’s a weapon against COVID so soon (even though it’s felt like forever), it’s fair and reasonable also to be frightened about the speed. Were there corners cut?
Here are some facts about how this modern-day miracle was able to happen so quickly.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization for the two existing COVID-19 vaccines, which are available now, only after meeting rigorous criteria for safety and effectiveness. The EUA has determined that the known and potential benefits of the vaccines outweigh the known and potential risks for the vaccines.
- While the COVID-19 vaccines are new, much of the science started years ago for other vaccinations. We were not, in this case, starting from scratch. That helped things develop much more quickly.
- Collaboration overshadowed competition. The very best minds have been investigating and studying all components of the virus. Sure, pharmaceutical companies wanted to win the ‘first’ place finish, but there’s enough vaccine business to go around and more than enough pride to share.
- The massive infusion of money from the government helped in a number of ways, including but not limited to motivation. It also ensured that vaccine developers had the resources they needed to get started working right away.
- While finding volunteers to participate in medical trials is often a time-consuming challenge, such was not the case for the COVID-19 vaccines. There were many people eager to participate. This was aided through the use of social media, which helped to get the word about the need. The vaccines were tested on many thousands of people.
- The massive infusion of government money facilitated the opportunity for steps in the process to be done simultaneously rather than incrementally. For instance, the government invested at its own risk, in necessary manufacturing capacity in advance while development was still underway. This let developers hit the ground running with manufacturing.
Two Doses? Why Do I Need to Do This Twice?
It’s not unprecedented for a second or booster dose of a vaccination to be necessary. Such is the case with both of the existing COVID-19 vaccines. The double dose enables the immune system to provide longer-lasting protection. If someone receives just the first shot, there may be some protection, but it’s unclear how much and how long it will last. The full benefits are achieved by receiving both doses.
What About Side Effects
There are potential side effects of the COVID vaccine. However, many people experience none at all. Some people’s side effects that are experienced include soreness at the injection site, muscle aches, fatigue, headache, and fever. These tend to go away after a day or two. There have also been some allergic reactions, especially by people who have had allergic reactions in the past. You’ll also, no doubt, hear about extreme reactions. While under careful investigation, most of these have not been tied to the vaccines.
There’s an important takeaway. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason why even young, healthy people are hit hard by COVID; sometimes extremely hard, and even fatally. You don’t know how COVID-19 will effect you. On the other hand, the most likely side effects of the vaccine pale in comparison to the potentially serious impact of the virus.
Is the Vaccine Going to Change my DNA?
The vaccine does not change one’s DNA. In a nutshell, the COVD-19 vaccines use messenger RNA (nRNA). This is a genetic material that contains instructions for making proteins. It enters human cells and instructs them to produce the ‘spike protein’ that stimulates the body’s immune system to attack the coronavirus. The cell then degrades the mRNA, and there is no evidence that it remains in the cell. Dr. David Skorton, the President and CEO of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), reported that mRNA vaccines were made possible for COVID-19 “by decades of biomedical research within the academic medicine community.”
Will the Vaccine Protect Me? Will it Protect Those Around Me?
According to the FDA, most vaccines that protect from viral illnesses also reduce viral transmission; the process by which viruses are spread by those who have been vaccinated. While there’s optimism about this being the case for the COVID-19 vaccines, the information is inconclusive at present. So while receiving the vaccine will protect you from getting sick, it’s unclear whether or not you can still transmit the virus to others. Therefore, for the time being, it’s strongly recommended to keep wearing a mask to protect other people.
Also known as community immunity, herd immunity is a confusing concept. Johns Hopkins School of Public Health explains that herd immunity results when the majority of the population is immune from a disease, providing indirect protection to people who are not immune. To achieve herd immunity, a large percentage of the population needs to get infected and/or get the vaccine. If we waited for enough people to get infected, it’s estimated that millions would die during the process. Consequently, becoming vaccinated is crucial to developing herd immunity.
Become Informed by the Experts
The available information about vaccines is abundant; some is reassuring, some is frightening, some is made by informed experts, some is theorized, some is accurate, some is false. As you decide whether or not you want to become vaccinated, do your own research and make sure you reference authorities who have informed insight. Make your decision based on fact, science, and expert knowledge. Don’t do yourself the disservice of depending on theorists or alarmists for determining your future.
In closing, a nurse was recently asked if she was going to get the vaccine. She responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’ When countered, “Aren’t you afraid?” She said, “I’ve seen COVID-19 and how it ravages people, and so that is what makes me afraid.”
- The Vaccine
For most of 2020, the coronavirus rendered senior communities some of the most dangerous places to be. The statistics are simply heartbreaking. Yet, with residents in senior living second only to frontline healthcare employees in line for the vaccine against COVID-19 (with some already having received it), senior communities will soon be among the most low-risk environments. According to Senior Living Foresight publisher Steve Moran, “By the end of January, senior living will likely be the safest place to live on the planet.” What’s more, the CDC and FDA will provide continuous vaccine safety monitoring and education for residents and their families.
- Groundbreaking Science
The science behind the COVID-19 vaccine is not only groundbreaking, it came with breathtaking speed. Even before the pandemic reached global proportions, drug manufacturers achieved unprecedented large-scale success in clinical trials. The Medical Futurist posits, “Who would have thought that the genome of a virus could be sequenced within 24 hours? Not a single person would have bet on it before 2020.” Such effective, rapid epidemiologic response promises to continue in the future.
- Hindsight and Foresight
What we’ve experienced in 2020 has informed – and transformed – us forever, particularly professionals in care settings. They’ve risen above anyone’s wildest imaginings in creativity, adaptability and, yes, genuine heroism. 20/20 hindsight affords crystal clear foresight into what needs to be done in 2021:
- The positive stories coming out of senior living need to be shared.
- Staff in senior living need to feel valued and appreciated with formal incentives and recognition tactics.
- Lingering negative impressions of senior living, reluctance to move in, and drop in census need to be mitigated with trained crisis communications.
- Fresh Starts
For most of us, 2020 couldn’t get off the calendar fast enough. Even for those disinclined to anticipate changes, expectations for 2021 are uniquely high. For older adults, a new year brings the potential for an enriching new life in senior living, especially as residents in senior communities are among the first to receive the COVID vaccine. Now is the time to “seize the day” and let prospects know all senior living has to offer, including renewed safety and security.
- Warmer Weather and Longer Days
Even before the short days and cold temperatures set in, people were dreading the onset of winter during a pandemic. But, as December 21 marked the longest night of the year, we are (albeit slowly) on the way to increased sunshine and balmier climes. Daylight savings time begins on March 14, when we will move the clock forward. Just a few days after that, spring will arrive, followed by sprouting bulbs, chirping birds and uplifted spirits.
- Prioritized Healthcare
Accompanying the nearly superhuman efforts of frontline workers during the pandemic were advances in healthcare that might otherwise have taken years to arrive. Telehealth technology has allowed patients to safely consult with medical professionals and receive necessary medications. Complex systems such as A.I. and network science have greatly increased applications in the healthcare realm. Governments have prioritized healthcare, and thousands upon thousands of important health studies have emerged. These encouraging trends stand to continue in 2021 and beyond.
Hope is as essential to human life as the air we breathe. Said Dr. Judith Rich, “Hope is a match in a dark tunnel, a moment of light, just enough to reveal the path ahead and ultimately the way out.” Given what we’ve been through in 2020, there are likely very few of us with little or no hope for 2021. It’s what keeps us going, what allows us to dream of the “agains” – the good kind, like gathering with friends again, hugging our grandchildren again, dining in our favorite restaurants again.
Hope’s counterpart is faith. If ever there was a year to build faith in humanity, it was 2020. In spite of all the political vitriol and social injustice, random acts of kindness sprang up in every corner of the earth – among family, friends, neighbors, and total strangers. The indescribable grit, compassion, courage, heart, and dedication demonstrated by the countless people inclined to care for others is truly awe-inspiring. As fellow human beings, we are capable of magic – even in the worst of times. And that is perhaps the best thing of all going into 2021.
Watch our brief video to see how IVY Marketing Group is using our 20/20 vision to look forward to 2021.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
What Has Changed?
In the age of coronavirus, what hasn’t changed? The senior living industry has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Re-evaluating and adjusting your annual marketing spend to the changes brought about by the pandemic is necessary, and ultimately fruitful.
Live and Online
COVID-19 has imposed tremendous limitations on your ability to showcase your community in person and host such events as onsite tours, luncheons, educational seminars, and all manner of face-to-face occasions. As a result, technology has taken center stage, allowing for live, online events, virtual tours, webinars, and more. Investment in the technology and production expertise required to facilitate successful remote experiences should account for a considerable portion of your budget for 2021, and very likely beyond.
PR is Paramount
Whoever said PR is dead hasn’t seen 2020. The press has had a feeding frenzy over stories of illness and death in senior communities due to the virus. The resultant negative narrative has damaged reputation and overshadowed the creativity, ingenuity and heroism that have made life in many senior communities not just tolerable, but enjoyable and fulfilling. Your good news is not only worth sharing, it’s your lifeline to recovery, and PR should occupy a greater portion of your marketing budget than ever before.
How much? PR should ideally account for 50 percent of your marketing budget, including webinars/podcasts (15%), online events (10%), blogs/reviews/feature stories (15%), online videos (5%), and Search Engine Optimization (5%). The other half should be devoted to direct consumer outreach (40%) and online and print advertising (10%).
Contact IVY Marketing Group today to discuss your 2021 budget, and learn how our team of specialists can help you make the most of your marketing dollars.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Webex, Google Hangouts, streaming, gallery view, speaker view, invite to meeting, ask to join, leave meeting, dial back in, can you hear me?, can you see me?, mute your mic, unmute your mic…
Social restrictions imposed by the novel COVID-19 virus have ushered in an equally novel lexicon that is on everyone’s lips, along with a few expletives cursing the challenges of technology. Even seniors are in on the action. Like “Google,” “Zoom” has become a verb.
Videoconferencing technology has allowed us to remain socially and professionally connected to one another, even as we keep our safe social distances. That’s a very good thing that is only going to become more prevalent as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of our world today.
Video calls have also presented some unique issues of finesse and decorum.
While social calls (birthdays, happy hours, chats with grandma) are more casual, less formal and generally more forgiving of various gaffes in etiquette, all videoconferences come with some do’s and don’ts from which users can benefit:
- Square away technology ahead of time. While technical snafus can – and do! – occur even under the best of circumstances, many of them can be eliminated by preparing ahead of a videoconference call. At least 30 minutes in advance of the call, especially if you’re the host, make sure you’ve shared/received the call link, number and/or password. Also ensure that your Internet connection is strong, your microphone and camera functions are working properly, and turn off any other apps that could drain bandwidth. Once the call has begun, mute yourself when you’re not speaking to eliminate feedback, echo effects, and background noise. People working or sheltering at home share space with dogs, lawnmowers, children, passing cars and any number of other interfering sounds. And for goodness’ sake, don’t type on the device you’re using for the call, as the internal noise will be loudly audible – and annoying – to all participants.
- Assign a moderator. While this may be unnecessary for social calls, anyone who’s ever tried to participate in a call when it seems that either everyone or no one is talking knows that it’s helpful to have someone guide who will speak and when. Questions or comments can be made in the chat section at any time and addressed later in the call, and everyone will see them.
- Don’t interrupt or talk over one another. In a video call, it’s not as easy to tell who’s going to speak or when they might be finished. It’s always important to be respectful and give everyone a chance to speak in equal measure, even more so on video when the advantage of body language isn’t there. Wait until someone has stopped talking for as long as it takes to spell out “WAIT” in your mind (Why Am I Talking?) before speaking. If someone else talks at the same time, stop and either wait for a later opportunity to speak, jot a comment, or politely cede the “right of way.”
- Limit verbal space fillers. “Uh, um, mmm, well, like, ah, yes…” While these pause words may indicate that someone is either speaking or listening, they add little to the discussion, waste time, and may cause others to inject their own unnecessary comments: “Sorry, say again?, please repeat, what was that?…”
- Optics are everything. Even though you may be working from home in your curlers and PJs, it’s important to dress for your video call like you would in a face-to-face professional meeting (at least from the waist up, unless you plan to stand up!). Whatever you’d wear to the office is how you should dress on a video call. If you’re not using the background blur function or one of the backdrops many video conferencing tools provide (tropical islands, landscapes, SpongeBob SquarePants), try to find a quiet, uncluttered area of your home in which to attend the call.
- Behave as if you’re there in person. Be on time to the video call, ideally ahead of the host, and give it your full attention – even when you’re not speaking. Make eye contact with your fellow meeting members, and limit fidgeting or distracting movements. Don’t look at your phone, have side conversations with other call participants, chat with people in your house, chew gum, pick your teeth, slurp coffee, etc.
Seniors and Videoconferencing
Videoconferencing technology has been a saving grace for seniors, many of whom are isolated and apart from family and friends during the pandemic. While older people may be intimidated by technology or reluctant to try it, many are finding that it’s paving the way for greater connection and are willing to ride out the learning curve.
It’s important to be patient and understanding with older people learning videoconferencing technology. There are some very senior-friendly software and apps on the market; consider researching and installing them on their behalf. Sit with them as they’re learning, going slowly and methodically through the process. Write out step-by-step instructions with screen shots they can refer to later, and don’t use techy terms, no matter how intuitive they may seem to you. “Cloud,” “portal,” and “stream” mean something entirely different to people born years ago.
IVY Is Here for You
The IVY team is adapting to the ever-evolving “new normal” of social distancing, meeting virtually and conducting business remotely. But we know that, as many of our clients are considered essential employees, they cannot operate in the safety of their own residences. We recognize that they are frontline heroes who are inventing new ways to keep residents and staff safe, while also engaged and happy.
We thank and admire our clients, who are making a positive difference for seniors and their families, even amidst negative press and unscrupulous lawyers. Let us help share your good news of tireless care, compassion, creativity and celebration.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.