New Report: Engaging the Arts to Build Vaccine Confidence

From the CDC Foundation: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all aspects of life, including the arts and culture sector. However, artists and cultural organizations have also played a crucial role in the vaccination effort. Although vaccination is a key element in overcoming the pandemic, vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have become significant challenges to achieving high levels of vaccine uptake. In this report, we explore how arts and culture have been utilized to promote vaccine confidence, dispel myths and misinformation surrounding vaccines and support vaccination efforts in the United States.

Arts and culture have been used to promote public health messages for decades. Posters, music, and public performances all have been employed to raise awareness of health issues and encourage healthy behaviors. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, artists, and cultural organizations around the world used their platforms to promote vaccination and address vaccine hesitancy. One example is the “I’m Vaccinated” campaign, launched by the Ad Council in the United States. This campaign featured a series of public service announcements by celebrities, musicians and athletes which encouraged Americans to get vaccinated. The campaign was widely successful, with more than 75 percent of eligible adults in the United States reporting they saw or heard the ads.1 Art has also been used to counter misinformation and promote vaccine education. For instance, the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with the character, Mr. Bean, to produce a public service announcement that explains the importance of getting vaccinated and dispel myths about vaccines. The video was widely shared on social media and has been praised for its effectiveness in communicating important vaccine information in an engaging and accessible way.

Music has also been used to promote vaccine uptake. In 2021, the UK, the “Vax Because” campaign featured a song by artist Dave called “In the Fire.” The song addresses the reasons why some people may be hesitant to get vaccinated and encourages listeners to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities. The song was widely shared on social media and helped to increase vaccine uptake among younger people. Museums and theaters have also played a role in promoting vaccination. For example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City offered a free admission ticket to anyone who gets vaccinated at their on-site clinic. The Sydney Opera House in Australia has also hosted vaccination clinics, providing an opportunity for members of the public to get vaccinated while enjoying a cultural experience. 

Moreover, art installations and exhibitions have been used to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination. For example, the Museum of Science in Boston, MA, hosts an exhibition entitled, Project Vaccine: Our Best Defense, which includes interactive activities designed to educate the public about the development of the COVID-19 vaccines. The exhibition explores the different types of vaccines, viral transmission and the role of vaccines in preventing disease and future pandemics. 

The use of arts and culture to promote vaccine confidence has been effective for several reasons. First, cultural institutions and artists have existing platforms and audiences that can be leveraged to promote vaccination. Cultural institutions are often seen as trusted sources of information and have the potential to reach a wide audience. Second, the creative use of art and music can make vaccine information more engaging and accessible. The use of celebrities and public figures in public service announcements can also increase the appeal of vaccine messages. 

Third, cultural institutions and artists can provide a sense of community and social responsibility around vaccination. For example, museums and theaters that require proof of vaccination for entry can create a shared sense of responsibility for public health. Similarly, music festivals that require attendees to be vaccinated can create a sense of community around the importance of vaccination.

Read the full report here.