Vaccines: A Crisis of Imagery - Bio-Defense Network
Apr 2015

Vaccines: A Crisis of Imagery

By Meg Nash

The days of black and white press releases are quickly passing. New technology platforms provide near-instant communications directly with those who need or seek our message. During a crisis, the use of imagery has become increasingly important to convey both a message and emotion. Imagery can drive home the urgency of a message, the dire nature of potential consequences, the safest way to remedy.  Why, then, is all imagery associated with vaccines about needles?

At the heart of the matter, vaccines protect many from common illnesses with consequences ranging from inconvenience to serious illness, permanent disability and death. Why isn’t the imagery associated with vaccines of healthy children and seniors enjoying their lives without illness or disability? Why do we associate the images of vaccines to reinforce a common fear of needles and remind people of the pain of injections? If public health is trying to promote more widespread vaccinations, we need to focus on reinforcing a person’s desire for health.

News stories on heroin often it feature a photograph of a famous person, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, displayed in health and life. They don’t feature photographs of junkies unconscious in an alley with a needle still in their arm. They don’t show photos of the things people to do support their habits. They show the tragedy of addiction and help us, through imagery, to remember that it’s our fellow humans who suffer from this addiction. Why would imagery for vaccine programs be more graphic than that of heroin addiction

Outcomes of NOT getting a vaccine are illness, outcomes of getting the vaccine are health. Reinforce messaging by reinforcing outcomes. If you want more people to get vaccines, avoid photos of injections, needles, multi-use vials, crying children, and pierced skin. Healthy kids are happy kids, sick kids are not. Stop showing children wincing in pain as their helpless mothers look on in blurred backgrounds. Show children who are strong, capable and healthy.

Tips for Better Imagery Impact:

  • Focus on positive patient outcomes. Good outcomes are better than poor ones, remind them with pictures.
  • Make YOUR goals, THEIR goals. Marketing 101 – make them want what you’re selling, or in public health, the program you’re promoting.
  • Associate their participation with positive imagery. People respond more to positive images when used as a call to action.
  • Keep imagery simple. Showing electron microscope photographs of a virus can alienate non-scientific types and leave them feeling unqualified to make an educated decision, which leads to inaction. Keep it simple, focus on positive outcomes, like smiling and activity.

Images of happy children, smiling families, able seniors, blue skies and puppies should be promoting your health campaigns. Leave the images of injections, needles and vials out of it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *