In mid-May, young people ages 12 to 15 visited a Spectrum Health clinic to get their COVID-19 vaccine. The first batch of appointments came just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age.
Since mid-December 2020, the health system, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been reaching out to the people in its community — first health care workers, then older adults, later all adults and now adolescents — about vaccination. Its “This is big” campaign aims to encourage and enable everyone in the community — “no matter what their race, ethnicity or economic status” — to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, emphasizing it’s all about protecting each other.
Spectrum Health partnered with other health care and community organizations to provide COVID-19 doses at the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic, located at DeVos Place convention center in Grand Rapids. More than 231,000 doses were administered at the site before it closed on May 21 as demand wanes. Spectrum Health itself had administered more than 450,000 vaccines by the end of May.
Sharing the science and “why” stories. As part of the “This is big” campaign, the health system is posting blogs, images and videos and sharing science and safety information about the vaccines on its website.
A section of Spectrum Health’s online vaccine hub features “My Why” videos, “celebrating stories of hope.” Health system clinicians and patients use the platform to inspire confidence in others by explaining why they got the COVID-19 vaccine.
One community member, Lois, became emotional as she talked about getting the vaccine, remembering her 35-year-old son who died of COVID-19. “I’m doing it [getting the vaccine] because I want my other children and the family members to be safe,” she said through tears.
C.J. Gibson, M.D., a Spectrum Health trauma and critical care physician, shared a powerful message about his “why” for getting vaccinated, “without question and without hesitation”:
“I’m taking the vaccine because my community — the black community — has been impacted disproportionately by this disease. …We are getting sicker, we are dying and we are recovering slower from this awful disease than everyone else. So because of that and to protect my family, I’m taking the vaccine without question and without hesitation. … I’ve read the science. I believe in the data. I believe it’s safe. … Lastly, I want to get back to normal life.”
Spreading vaccine confidence on social media. On its social media channels, Spectrum Health is sharing useful information and building trust among community members. On Friday mornings via Facebook, it hosts a COVID-19 health series, in recent weeks featuring clinical experts and local leaders discussing a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine topics and answering questions.
On Facebook and Twitter, the health system is running an “I’m fully vaccinated … now what?” social campaign. Posts and images, tagged #ThisIsBig and #InThisTogether, call out what people who are fully vaccinated can do now, such as visit with family and friends and travel with minimal risks.
As Colin Osborne, the parent of an adolescent getting vaccinated at a Spectrum Health vaccine clinic said, “Think about the bigger picture: Being able to see your children without a mask walking across the graduation stage. Perhaps gathering with your family and having a level of confidence in that gathering. This is important — it’s bigger than all of us.”