The Fraser Health communications and public affairs team’s award-winning project, “Increasing Community Immunity Through a Vax-a-thon,” helped us achieve our goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates in a key area in our region.
Fraser Health is one of the largest of five regional health authorities in the Canadian province of British Columbia. We have more than 40,000 staff, medical staff and volunteers who support health services for more than 1.9 million people in 20 diverse communities in our region.
When COVID-19 vaccines began to arrive in late 2020, we played an essential role in getting our population vaccinated against COVID-19.
In the province, COVID-19 rates were highest within a specific community in Fraser Health, which happened to be the same community where vaccination rates were lagging. We needed to get people in that community vaccinated to help protect our vulnerable populations.
We heard from community members that they didn’t want to have to book an appointment and that they were looking for more flexible clinic hours. For others, the perceived requirement to have a health number and potential costs (vaccines are free in Canada) were barriers. We also heard many people were hesitant, apathetic or too busy to get vaccinated.
We used pop-up (temporary) vaccination clinics in highly populated areas, like parks, and promoted that anyone living in Fraser Health, including those without a health number, could drop in to these clinics for a free COVID-19 vaccine. While we saw a moderate increase in vaccination rates as a result of this approach, we needed to attract more people and further reduce barriers, such as offering appointments outside of regular vaccination clinic hours.
Our solution was to create a unique, low-barrier, high-profile, 32-hour vaccination event that would create a buzz, while providing a novel and entertaining vaccine experience.
Our first priority was to remove the need for a health number and a booked appointment, and extend clinic hours overnight, to meet the needs of people who faced these barriers. Our second priority was to create a festival atmosphere to attract busy families and those who were apathetic or hesitant to get vaccinated. We featured a food truck, prizes and non-stop entertainment. To add novelty, we used two themes: “Mask-erade” during the evening/overnight of day one, and “Doses with Dad” on day two, which was Father’s Day. We provided live updates on our social media channels showcasing happy people getting their vaccines.
Our project resulted in an increase in vaccine uptake by our target population, an increase in vaccinations overall compared to the previous weekend’s vaccine clinic and widespread positive media coverage and social media engagement.
The key to our success was understanding and addressing the barriers we needed to overcome in order to reach our audience — and we found a way to make it fun.
Megan White is a senior communications consultant with the communications and public affairs team at Fraser Health.