Iowa Department of Public Health launches new vaccination ad campaign

Des Moines Public Schools and MercyOne held their first vaccination clinic for teachers and staff on Saturday, Feb. 6. (Photo courtesy of Des Moines Public Schools)

The Iowa Department of Public Health this week launched a new ad in its $1.39 million campaign to encourage Iowans to get vaccinated.

“As eligibility further expands to the pediatric population, it’s also important that we reach an even more diverse groups of Iowans, including teens and their parents or guardians, with information about the vaccine,” Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia said in a news release.

The campaign will include videos on television and digital platforms, like YouTube, Hulu and TikTok. Advertisements for the vaccine will also appear on social media, radio channels and billboards.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Corell, Iowa’s adjutant general, asked Iowans to get vaccinated for COVID-19. (Screenshot via Iowa PBS)

The latest ad will feature Major General Ben Corell, an Iowa National Guard official who spoke alongside Gov. Kim Reynolds at an April press conference about his experience with COVID-19.

“My job requires me to be mentally tough, physically fit, and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Corell said at the press conference. Even so, he said, he contracted COVID-19, was hospitalized and experienced lingering symptoms for months.

Reynolds has tread the line between encouraging Iowans to get vaccinated and emphasizing that the decision is a personal choice. She has declined to introduce programs like a vaccine lottery or other state-sponsored incentives, as several other states have done. Reynolds also motivated state Republicans to pass legislation that forbids most businesses and public venues from requiring proof of vaccination from visitors.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to overcome the pandemic and get life back to normal, but it’s also a personal decision that’s unique to each individual,” Reynolds said in Monday’s IDPH news release. “The goal of this campaign is to connect with Iowans in a variety of ways with messages that communicate benefits that relate to them.”

Iowa’s vaccination rates have slowed significantly in recent weeks. The Washington Post reported that the number of vaccinations in Iowa has dropped by about one-third in each of the past two weeks.

Sarah Ekstrand, spokesperson for IDPH, said Tuesday the department will use advertising analytics to measure the success of the new campaign. They will also “continue to message about the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 the foreseeable future.”

Ekstrand said the vaccine information campaign began in February, when IDPH put out messages urging patience while vaccine supply increased. The $1.39 million represents the total amount the state has spent from that February campaign through today.