Deborah Pead, Founder and CEO

Mind the Gap

Now that we’ve come to our senses on the unattainable elimination strategy, I’m feeling more hopeful about NZ achieving the magical ‘Open Sesame’ of 90% vaccination.

Already in the past week we’ve seen a lot more upstream marketing and a greater effort in uniting Kiwis in the fight against Covid.  

But we still have a long way to go.  While the most motivated among us are proud to confirm our double vax status, the rest will take a lot of convincing and far more than a rational discussion.  I’ve learned the hard way not to get into an argument with an antivaxxer, it’s like getting into a pissing contest with a skunk.  It doesn’t end well.

Unfortunately the politicisation of Covid has polarised us into vaxxers and anti-vaxxers.  It’s causing cracks in relationships, rifts in families, turning neighbours into enemies and creating angst in the workplace.  We face the risk of ending up with a divided them and us – just look at the harm that’s doing to American society.   We are Kiwis for God’s sake and there only 5.2 million of us.

We can do this, we just need a plan that focuses on those things that unite us.  And to me that looks like a clear plan for post lockdown and a strategy of Gain, Pain and Maintain.

Gain

NZ had a real window of opportunity of being Covid free.  Now that’s gone, let’s aim to be the most vaccinated nation on the planet.  The associated rewards are massive for health, stability, happiness levels, the economy, tourism, food provenance, supply chain, lifestyle certainty and reputation.    

We need a pan-political, pan-industry approach to promoting the benefits of achieving this goal.  A stronger economy underpinning a better future, improved health goals and freedoms.

A wide spectrum of politicians, community leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, celebrities, media personalities, sports stars, artists, and social media stars should be united in delivering the vision of a common goal.

It’s encouraging to see the start of this on Super Saturday. Initiatives such as this immediately broadens the reach and influence, increasing the chance of success.  It’s naïve to think everyone trusts the government or tunes into the choreographed script of the Podium each day.  Different interest groups need to hear the call to action from the powerful voices of their own leaders and influencers - the people they trust!

Keep the gas on the Vaxathons and Top Towns and add a holistic campaign with multiple voices.

Include business.  NZME has shown leadership in its daily barometer and the 90% Campaign.  Some, like Steel and Tube and Up Education, are running their own vacs program for staff and other businesses are starting to get on board with similar initiatives. AIA has confirmed vaccination would accrue points for their Vitality members that can be used on discounts for different products and services.

And it’s not just big business.   Community groups must have a stake in the plan.  A colleague pointed out Te Whānau O Waipareira, which has put its weight behind a #fightforyourwhakapa campaign with three mobile teams in a vax programme.  They’ve vaxxed 90,000 so far and counting.  As my colleague says, “here is a super practical grass roots team getting shit done”.

We need more rewards – incentives work and whether its gift vouchers, fried chicken, or chocolate fish, INCENTIVISE people. Maybe New World could bring back the insanely popular Smeg knives campaign – stickers for everyone whose been vaccinated?

What about a million dollar draw each week?  Like lotto but with NHI numbers.  If your number is pulled out and you’ve been vaccinated, $1 million tax free is all yours. That will get some of the hesitant off the couch.

What about a symbol to show your solidarity with everyone who has been vaccinated?  Kiwi’s love to display a badge of NZ when we travel. Let’s use that sentiment to unite us at home as well.

Pain

And when the Gain doesn’t work, the pain of exclusion will further encourage those on the fence.  The pain of not being able to go to a bar or restaurant, the hairdresser, the gym or office Christmas party, local and international travel, concerts, and sports matches, and for some, their jobs.

When the unvaccinated are confined to barracks and need to show their Covid Safe Pass to access the same freedom enjoyed by the those who are vaccinated, they will reconsider.

And as tragic as each death is, the sobering pain of losing a loved one who could have been saved by the vaccine, will force the vaccine hesitant to rethink their decision.    

Maintain

Alongside the technology of a Covid Safe Pass, we need to maintain the momentum, not only for the vaccine hesitant but also for the vaccine updates and boosters.  

This is where sustained education and positive macro social engineering does its work.

In the same ways Kiwis have learned to fasten seat belts, stop littering, stop smoking and give up plastic bags, it takes sustained messaging time and time again to maintain the momentum of the War on Covid.

In thanking people for doing the right thing, for caring about their health, for their contribution to the health and welfare of others, you reinforce the social cohesion of positive behaviour.

At the end of that day – there will always be a group that will exercise their right to decline the vaccination and society will have to tolerate them, even if we resent their actions.

And like smoking, drink driving, domestic violence, child abuse; it will be one more anti-social behaviour that the good citizens will have to “break the cycle’ on.

But at the crux of it all, we need a post lockdown recovery plan.  It doesn’t need to be perfect, and it will probably need to evolve as recovery gains momentum along the way.  But give us a plan that will narrow the gap between vaxxers and anti vaxxers and between lockdown and freedom.

Image credit: Te Whānau O Waipareira

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