Celebrities Don’t Persuade Patients to Get Vaccinated; Pharmacists Do

Publication
Article
Pharmacy TimesJanuary 2024
Volume 90
Issue 1

Despite Travis Kelce’s recent commercial with Pfizer, data show celebrity endorsements do not convince listeners to receive immunizations

The conversation about vaccination have only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to findings from a study published in Translational Behavioral Medicine, even though the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven effective, 55% of adults in the United States in 2021 expressed hesitancy because of effectiveness, adverse events, trust, policy, and expediency of production. These investigators said that vaccine misinformation could contribute to the public’s perception of immunizations.1

Doctor hands making a vaccination in the shoulder of patient - Image credit: Fotofabrika | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Fotofabrika | stock.adobe.com

Multicomponent interventions could be effective at addressing vaccine hesitancy. These interventions include addressing specific populations, increasing vaccine knowledge and awareness, improving access and convenience, engaging community leaders, and addressing mistrust and misinformation.2

A recent ad by Pfizer tries to achieve all these components. In the ad, Travis Kelce, a tight end for the National Football League (NFL)’s Kansas City Chiefs, is seen going to a pharmacy to receive a vaccination for influenza when the pharmacist informs him that he can receive the updated COVID-19 vaccination as well.3

This ad tries to address those who are not vaccinated yet, using a public figure to gain the trust of the audience while playing into the convenience of “2 vaccinations at once,”3 as said in the ad. With Kelce’s prominence in the NFL and the media, he was an obvious choice to represent a pharmaceutical company and support vaccinations. However, in an interview with Pharmacy Times, Chris Morse, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Communications at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, said Kelce will not convince patients to obtain a vaccination if they do not already plan to.

“If you’re sitting there saying, ‘I don’t know whether I want to be vaccinated in the first place,’ I don’t think even Taylor Swift [could] move [patients] who are on the fence,” Morse said in the interview. “But the bigger a fan you are of the celebrity, the more likely you are to say, ‘All right, sure. Pfizer is OK.’”

Although a celebrity endorsement is not enough to convince patients who are already resistant to immunization, it could convince patients who are going to receive a vaccination to choose a specific product. Celebrity endorsements in pharmaceuticals are not a new concept.

Khloé Kardashian, a reality television star, and Lady Gaga, a pop music star, have endorsed rimegepant (Nurtec ODT; Pfizer), whereas Serena Williams, a tennis player, has endorsed ubrogepant (Ubrelvy; AbbVie). Both these medications are indicated for the management of migraine. Depending on the viewer, they might be drawn to a specific celebrity or product for their health conditions, thus inquiring about it at their pharmacy or physician’s office.

But products are not the only topics celebrities have endorsed. In 2022, talk show host Oprah Winfrey released a documentary about racial and health disparities in the health care system, intended to spread awareness of the challenges encountered by racial and ethnic minority patients. Morse said that in cases of spreading awareness, celebrity endorsement can actually be beneficial.

“Celebrities are highly effective because their name brings recognition to a company or an organization that might not normally be able to get that, and with that recognition, they have more sponsorships.... They have a bigger audience to talk about their [product or issue],” Morse said.

However, these types of endorsements have some drawbacks. Morse added that partnering with a celebrity can be risky, especially given “cancel culture” in the age of social media. For example, Kelce is prominently seen in the media because he is an NFL star but also because he is Taylor Swift’s current love interest. If the pair were to break up, Morse said, this would tarnish his reputation, thus negatively affecting his partnership with Pfizer.

Another drawback that Morse acknowledges is the lack of qualifications and knowledge that celebrities have for pharmaceuticals. When celebrities endorse a product, such as an athletic brand or shoe brand, they can be seen as more trustworthy, especially if they are an athlete. Celebrities do not tend to be qualified in information about pharmaceuticals or the health care space.

Pharmacists can play a critical role in helping patients learn and assess accurate information about vaccinations. Morse said there are 2 main reasons individuals are hesitant about vaccines: first, their ability to find and receive the vaccination, and secondly, their questioning of the information provided for the vaccine. Celebrities can push patients to the pharmacy, Morse said, but they cannot answer questions that make patients hesitant to receive a vaccination.

“A lot of times, [patients] don’t have the tools to understand what’s credible, what’s not credible, or to weigh where they’re getting information from,” Morse said. “In terms of pharmacists or medical professionals, one of the biggest things that they can do to address vaccine hesitancy is make themselves available for questions and make the patients feel that they’re in an area where they can ask questions.”

References

  1. Garett R, Young SD. Online misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. Transl Behav Med. 2021;11(12):2194-2199. doi:10.1093/tbm/ibab128
  2. Peters MDJ. Addressing vaccine hesitancy and resistance for COVID-19 vaccines. Int J Nurs Stud. 2022;131:104241. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2022.104241
  3. @killatrav. Paid partnership. #PfizerPartner With my schedule, saving time is key. The CDC says you can get this season’s updated COVID-19 shot when you get your flu shot if you’re due for both. That’s why I got two shots in one stop! Ask your doctor or pharmacist if it would be right for you. You can also visit CDC’s vaccines.gov to learn more and schedule an appointment. This video is for US residents only and is intended to be viewed as it was originally produced in partnership with Pfizer. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. September 22, 2023. Accessed October 31, 2023. https://www.instagram.com/p/CxgXyUHxv4H/

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