The Flu Vaccine Has Some Healthy Competition

ROCKVILLE, MD, October 19, 2017 – A EurekaFacts study recently published in the journal Social Marketing Quarterly showed that those who think a strong immune system can prevent the flu are actually less likely to get a flu shot. “Understanding Flu Vaccination in a Competitive Context” instead found they are engaging in alternative healthy behaviors such as taking vitamins, good nutrition, eating specific “superfoods,” and dressing warmly. 

These findings suggest that the decision to get a seasonal flu vaccine may occur in a competitive context where the decision-maker is faced with several choices of behaviors that are perceived to be equally effective in preventing the flu. 

“We’re always looking at why consumers are making the choices they make. In the case of flu prevention we wanted to know why those who were choosing health weren’t making the healthiest choice, getting a flu shot” said Alec Ulasevich, PHD, senior director or Public Affairs Research at EurekaFacts.

Considering that to some extent behaviors such as proper hygiene practices, good nutrition, and stress reduction are promoted by reputable sources as ways to prevent flu, along with several other approaches promoted by less credible sources (i.e., blogs, internet forums, social media), the information context may inadvertently, and sometimes deliberately, create a diverse consideration set of strategies to prevent the flu.

The results present a public health conundrum: how do we encourage flu vaccination without discouraging other healthy behaviors? The solution offered by the paper is a co-branding approach.

“In this competitive environment, health communicators can utilize the research to craft messages that embrace the competition.”

This would involve positioning flu vaccination as complementary immune boosting strategy along with other behaviors such as eating healthy or getting enough sleep considered by the audiences to accomplish the similar goal. In fact, the flu vaccine can be framed as the ultimate immune booster, one that trains the immune system specifically to fight the flu.

Link to the article as it appears in Social Marketing Quarterly: