With the first vaccines administered in the U.S., the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is now in sight. The challenge over the next year will be achieving widespread vaccination across the entire population, especially among people of color who are suffering and dying from the virus at higher rates Many experts are worried that vaccination rates for minority groups could lag behind the rest of the population. Data from the first weeks of the vaccine rollout indicate that in some states, white Americans are being vaccinated at two to three times the rate of Black Americans.
Public health officials are exploring a variety of ways to increase vaccination rates. My research suggests that Facebook ads targeting zip codes with large minority populations, high COVID-19 rates, and low vaccine uptake could be highly effective at encouraging underrepresented groups to get vaccinated. While targeted online advertising is widely used by businesses, the public health community has been slow to adopt it. I believe that online ads, provided for free by Facebook as a public good, can be an essential tool for achieving the widespread vaccination necessary to bring the pandemic to a close.
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This article was produced by Footnote in partnership with University of California-Irvine Paul Merage School of Business.