Taking a Shot at Immunizations Online, Part 4

We have arrived at National Immunization Month and many of us health-focused Twitter colleagues have committed ourselves to support this campaign by tapping the promise of social media. We have entitled it the #HCSMVAC Project, which loosely translates into Health Care Social Media Vaccine Project. Our group decided to focus on Kansas City, MO given its historically low vaccine rates and to make the project more manageable. On the whole, the diversity of activities set for August will allow us to shine a brighter light on the need for vaccinations. Below is a summary of the tasks we are pursuing and we hope they serve as inspiration for others to adopt and in generating new ideas. Included in this list are suggestions to avoid the hurdles we encountered.

We began by launching a weekly chat on Saturdays at 8am PT on Twitter, entitled #HCSMVAC as our hashtag. People across the country and all over the world began participating, contributing ideas, contacts, and asking all he right questions. These contributions have been enormously helpful in shaping this project. Taking up most of he heavy lifting have been Erica Olenski and Nate Osit, serving as moderators and encouragers.

Web Presence
Nate Osit put us on the map with a web site, where our links to resources are posted to the public. These initiatives include posters that can be circulated in Kansas City, featuring our website link to a Google Map of local immunization clinics. The site will soon feature our FAQs, tackling some of the more salient issues raised in the immunization conversation (e.g. no association between autism and vaccines, etc.) and our videos.

In preparing three videos for this project, I drew from Dr. April Foreman’s inspiring question: “Imagine a World Without Vaccines.” The videos will be featured on YouTube and on my Twitpic page here:

A World Without Vaccines



Links to these videos will appear on our Facebook page too. Everyone is encouraged to tweet and blog referencing the videos. In addition, there are several noteworthy and humorous approaches to immunization awareness that we applaud and will re-link to as well (e.g. Immunize Yo!).

Many group members have their own perspective and stories to tell regarding the importance of immunization and they are sharing their accounts. Mike Biovin, pharmacist, medical writer and parent, spoke from the heart regarding his daughter’s autism and why vaccinating her is important. Given the fear that some parents have regarding vaccines and their lack of knowledge about there being no connection to immunizations, Mike’s story is all the more powerful. Likewise, related health care stakeholders, such as Dr. April Foreman are using their sites to blog about vaccine awareness, raising their community’s consciousness.

In preparation for this month’s activities, we developed an FAQ sheet and a tweet sheet from which our members could harvest tweetable messages. We created a Dropbox folder to allow our group to download the resources to their computer and pull tweets for their own use. These messages vary from citing statistics to promoting specific locations where vaccines may be obtained.

Tweet samples
Want to protect your kids from infectious disease? Next stop: the nearest clinic. Find yours in Kansas City http://bit.ly/iNnLJU

Which Missouri city will be the most protected by immunizations? It’s
up to you. Vaccine locations http://bit.ly/iO4v8F #hcsmvac

Diptheria, Tetanus & Pertussis: What You Need To Know http://1.usa.gov/lnZdMX National Immunization Awareness Month #hcsmvac

Posters, Temporary Tattoos and Stickers
As mentioned above, our web site features posters that bear a link to the Google map of vaccine locations in Kansas City. In addition, they bear QR codes that can be read with smartphones that also link to the Google map. We started getting creative and decided to try to adapt the QR codes for temporary tattoos, as Mike Smith showcases here. That is when when we had bitten off more than we could chew. There were several glitches: they printed out too small and weren’t easily read. Accordingly, given how expensive and sensitive the medium is (working with temporary tattoo paper is not fun), we advise opting for a different route: print up the QR codes large enough to be readable stickers. It is easier to find a sticker vendor, cheaper to produce, and to generate a size that can be read, which is about 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches. The graphic below should give you a sense of what works.

Non-Traditional Tactics
While not as successful as the ideas above, Lisa Fields and myself have been testing the waters in trying to prod corporations to jump in with us. My hopes for a “Scoops for Shots” campaign have not convinced Baskin & Robbins to assist, though Lisa may have obtained a Chik-Fil-A contact in Kansas City to do a meal discount promotion for vaccinations. Likewise, our appeals to Pampers fell on deaf ears notwithstanding its “1 Pack, 1 Vaccine” program for UNICEF.

We encourage other creative and fun ideas, such as creating haikus and poems about immunizing, creating personal art that articulates your reasons for getting vaccinated, sharing videos of real stories, like Shea O’Machel’s story.

Community Outreach and Traditional Media
Coincidentally, the Association of American Family Physicians held its conference in Kansas City, MO last week, so we were hoping to spread the temporary tattoos among some of our contacts for wider circulation. The technical debacle in reading the tattoos prevented this from going forward, but we hope to pass along our pdf file of the codes so that stickers can be printed by local doctors, nurses, and other providers. Meanwhile, our team has been reaching out to groups and doctors in the KC area, offering our posters, QR code, videos, etc. in the hope of expanding our network reach. While letters have also been written to local KC newspapers, we have not received any receptivity. We continue to explore other contacts, as Dr. Foreman is pursuing circles within church ministries.

That’s a lot of activity from a purely volunteer group that sprang from Twitter. I can only imagine what formalized institutions with grander resources at its disposal can do. My suspicion is if we ever teamed up, our campaign would really go viral.


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