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Wanted: Leadership To Urge Us Kiwis To Get Vaccinated

Simply, inviting us or encouraging us to get the COVID-19 vaccination is not good enough. For New Zealand to reach population immunity or herd immunity we will need to strongly motivate our population to take up the vaccine. Regarding the importance of ‘urging” Kiwis to get vaccinated, the messaging to date has been somewhat lacklustre and insipid. There seems to be a hesitancy amongst our leaders to ‘urge’, with a preference to the more passive forms of action like ‘inviting’ or ‘encouraging’. Based on recent international experiences of vaccine rollouts, this less emphatic approach, will be insufficient to mobilise the numbers necessary to reach a population immunity of 75-85 percent in NZ.

The Unsure, Hesitant, Unlikely

A recent March 2021 survey by Horizon Research for the Ministry of Health and the same survey conducted in 2020 found in both studies that two-thirds of New Zealanders surveyed would likely take the vaccine. This leaves approximately 30 percent unsure, hesitant, or unlikely to get vaccinated.

Now, add in under 16 year-olds, 20% of the population, who as a precaution, are presently, excluded from access to the vaccine and you get a huge 50% with possibly no vaccination. Potentially, half the population who will not be eligible or don’t want the vaccine. That puts a huge hole in our plans to reach herd immunity and a pathway to relaxing border restrictions and begin to open up New Zealand anytime soon.

Tyranny of Arithmetic

The tyranny of this arithmetic is simple. We as a nation, must get more of the unsure and hesitant to migrate over to the decision to getting the jab. This must be done through strong compelling leadership and targeted community based communications. Our leaders need to step forward and lean into providing clear consistent guidance on the merits of immunisation, that are tailored to any specific concerns of our diverse social groupings. While acknowledging the right of people to make their own decisions, leaders voices need to carry an ardently persuasive tone and strongly ‘urge’ all our people, when it is their turn, to get vaccinated.

Factors Influencing Uptake

The most compelling reasons that resonate with the public are those identified by the Ministry of Health’s own research. This work shows that the factors influencing uptake are embedded in the following ideas: helping to protect all New Zealanders, helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic more quickly, helping to reduce the risk of infection and the prospect of further lockdowns and economic harm, that the vaccine has been through extensive properly conducted clinical trials, helping to protect my health, my families, and those closest to me. And, it is free.

Special Sauce - Personal Conviction

Personal conviction is a powerful motivator for us all. Thus, the very act of an individual making that personal decision to be vaccinated is empowering. That decision can help inspire others and will propagate wider discussion and debate on the benefits of improving the vaccine uptake and the inherent community benefits that come with it.

Energising these messages is a leader’s personal conviction. This is the special sauce, that puts real meaning into the words. Leaders and their expressions can be a powerful stimulus for action. Thus ‘urging’ our ‘team of 5 million’ forward to make us safer must be on the lips of Kiwi leaders.

A Call to Leaders

Who are these leaders? They are: political, public officials, religious, unions, corporate, health, science, education and community leaders. These two leaders, below, are examples of leading with energy and conviction, urging their communities.

President, Joe Biden - February 2021

“But if there’s one message to cut through to everyone in this country, it’s this: the vaccines are safe. Please, for yourself, your family, your community, this country take the vaccine, when it’s your turn and available……’s your patriotic duty.

Pope Francis - January 2021

“I believe that morally, everyone must take the vaccine. It is the moral choice because it is about your life (and) the lives of others”.

Note: Pope Francis and his Bishops across the world including in NZ issued a joint statement from the Vatican ‘urging’ the Catholic faithful and all peoples to get vaccinated.

Further examples of this kind of leadership can be found in a number of private sector organisations who have embarked on proactive vaccination campaigns. Lead by their Chief Executives, these companies are ‘urging’ their employees and customers to get vaccinated. This includes staff incentives such as paid-time off work, free transport to get immunised, and myth-busting staff forums on vaccine misinformation . For instance, Delta Airlines, McDonalds USA, Dollar General offer modest financial incentives for staff to get the COVID-19 jab. There is a growing number of companies adopting a similar approach. On this topic of vaccine incentives, Prime Minister Adern is on record stating ‘the best incentive is looking after each other’. This may be true. However, based on the Ministry of Health’s own research and the arithmetic calculated above, ‘looking after each other’ alone will not get NZ to a state of population immunity.

To be fair, in NZ, there are some leaders taking on this challenge but there is simply not enough and not in all the right places. Often their messages have been diluted by middle-of-the-road statements like ‘invite’ or ‘encourage’ On the eve of NZ vaccination rollout of Phase 3 for the vulnerable and Phase 4 for general populations, the moment is upon us for clear and present leadership to articulately inspire, and motivate us.

Urge Us, Please

Wanted: leadership to ‘urge’ us Kiwis to get vaccinated. Our country depends on it. Be you, executives, managers, organisers, directors, supervisors, or principles talk to your employees, members, congregations, colleagues, and partners tell them of the critical importance of this vaccination.

To organisations from around the country, are you going to lead us with your voices? Air New Zealand , General Practices, State Services Commission, Fonterra, New Zealand Medical Association, Combined Trade Unions, NZ Post, Medical Colleges, Kiwi Bank, Spark, Vodaphone, TVNZ, Warehouse, Farmers, NZ Police, NZ Herald, DHB Chairs/CEOs, to mention only a few prominent institutions, what is your organisation going say to your staff and the public?

To energise the momentum and set the example; Prime Minister Adern, COVID Minister Hipkins & Health Minister Little, and Director General of Health Dr Bloomfield ‘urge’ us, please.


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