The Agenda | Vol. 38 | Addressing vaccine hesitancy (and why herd immunity eludes us)


by the Global Impact Relations Network

MAY 26, 2021 | THE AGENDA VOL. 38

Showing the world how impactful storytelling drives behavior

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Image: Reuters


In the U.S. at least, things appear to be returning to a pre-pandemic normal. People are dining in restaurants. Shopping. Travelling. Yet even with the widespread availability of vaccines, only 49 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, far from the 85-90 percent threshold Dr. Anthony Fauci cited for herd immunity. Roughly 61 percent have received a first dose. In Canada, roughly 45 percent have received a first dose, and 60% have expressed a desire to be vaccinated. With anti-mask and anti-vaccine rhetoric still rampant, the choice to get vaccinated seems to have become an ideological flashpoint.

This month, we look at vaccine hesitancy, how disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines is spreading, and how communicators are working hard to cut through the noise and keep herd immunity within reach. 

SDGs covered In this issue:


The Joe Rogan Effect

Image: Spotify


With 11 million listeners, The Joe Rogan Experience is the most popular podcast on Spotify, affording Rogan a formidable influence with his commentary on current events. After advising young and healthy people not to get vaccinated in a late-April episode, Rogan responded to the widespread blowback by insisting he was not “an anti-vaxx person” and pointing out “I’m not a doctor, I’m a … moron.” Having already disparaged vaccines and lockdown measures on several other episodes, his disclaimer was likely too little, too late for at least some of his followers. To gauge the potential impact of Rogan’s comments, The Washington Post consulted a series of surveys it had conducted between April 2020 and February 2021 and discovered Rogan’s disparaging comments about vaccines coincided with a spike in the number of his listeners deciding to forgo them.

Washington Post – Joe Rogan told millions of young men to be skeptical about coronavirus vaccines


This Is Our Shot and Vaccine Hunters Canada team up to bolster national vaccination effort

Image: Facebook, This Is Our Shot


In an effort to fight disinformation and address concerns about vaccines from the mostly racialized communities most affected by the pandemic, a group of Canadian doctors teamed up with celebrities and athletes including Ryan Reynolds, Michael Buble and Hayley Wickenheiser to launch This Is Our Shot, a campaign to get accurate vaccine information to underserved communities in more than 100 languages. Their partner in connecting people with vaccines once on-side is Vaccine Hunters Canada, a group of volunteers who gained a massive social following for helping Canadians overcome a confusing vaccine booking system and get to where vaccines were available. Vaccine Hunters Canada became an official partner of the City of Toronto, and was recognized by the Prime Minister for its efforts. 

Global News – Canadian doctors, Ryan Reynolds and other celebs team up to tackle vaccine hesitancy


How unverified accounts of vaccine side effects on social are fueling infertility fears

Image: Politifact


The latest coronavirus vaccine side effect story circulating on social media involves “protein shedding” and changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle that threaten fertility. A number of business owners responded by asking vaccinated patrons not to enter, in an effort to “protect” their female customers. Though there is no medical evidence of this side effect occurring and the concept of “vaccine shedding” has been debunked, unverified firsthand accounts in comment sections and on social media are fueling the spread of harmful misinformation.


NBC News – Distancing from the vaccinated: Viral anti-vaccine infertility misinfo reaches new extremes


Spotlight: Marketers tackling vaccine hesitancy

Recognizing the enormity of this challenge of vaccine hesitancy, APG Good Thinking brought together thirty strategists from Canadian advertising agencies partnered with six vaccine hesitancy experts to create a unique set of communications resources to help tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The event, a strategy hack-a-thon, tackled six contexts where Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy is at its highest. To access the communications resources that resulted from this hack-a-thon, visit this link.


From the Impact Relations Community…

May Impact Council

Last week, Ben & Jerry’s Head of Global Activism Strategy, Christopher Miller, and U.S. Activism Manager, Jabari Paul, joined our monthly Impact Council to discuss how the beloved brand has been able to tackle pressing and often controversial social issues while driving Ben & Jerry’s mission and bringing its fans along the ride. Play back the session here.



Podcasts we love

Coffee With My Ma: First Nations actress Kaniehtiio Horn shares interviews with her mother, a prominent Mohawk activist who loves to recount her many adventures. Tune in and feel like you’re laughing along with Horn and her mom in their living room.


Thanks for reading,

— Ashley Letts, Managing Editor

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