NHS England: Will this old pals’ act win over anyone?

nhs jabYou might think that with the latest Covid vaccine figures for England showing that 91% of over 80s, 95% of over 75s and 93% of care home residents have had the jab, the last thing the NHS needs is to launch an ad campaign urging more people to get vaccinated.

But while 12,646,486 first doses have been administered in the UK – nearly one in four of all adults – there are still the doubters, the stragglers and the anti-vaxxers to convince.

Enter Sir Elton John and Sir Michael Caine, who are fronting a new NHS England campaign to promote the jab, organised by Lord Ara Darzi, who is co-director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, and is a friend of both.

The video, which was shot at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, opens with the Rocket Man auditioning for the role of promoting the vaccine, with the director giving him instructions off screen on his “acting”, and also asking him for his Michael Caine impression.

Elton then pretends to get the vaccine before bursting out into his 1983 hit song I’m Still Standing. However, the director seems unimpressed and tells Elton that “we’ll will let you know”, to which the music icon replies: “Well, at this short notice you won’t find anyone bigger.”

Cut to a shot of Michael Caine, who says that getting the vaccine “didn’t hurt”, and adds his famous catchphrase: “Not many people know that.” Offscreen the director says: “”And cut there. Marvellous, that was fantastic. Thank you, Sir Michael…And Claire, let the little fellow know he didn’t get the job.”

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens seems pretty chuffed with the film. He said: “Well over nine out of 10 people aged 75 and over have already taken up the offer of their NHS Covid vaccination, and now we want to encourage everyone in the high priority groups to do so.

“That’s why we’re grateful to Sir Elton and Sir Michael for helping the NHS promote the vaccine uptake, building on the fast and efficient programme to date, which has seen the NHS already vaccinate one in four adults across England.”

Meanwhile, Lord Darzi reckons that Sir Elton and Sir Michael are “trusted faces” who are “loved” by the public. He said: “I am really pleased that Elton and Michael were keen to do this video, to show how quick and easy it is to get vaccinated and why it’s so important.

“They recognise that the vaccines approved by the medical regulator are safe and effective and the more people who have them, the sooner we will curb the pandemic and get the country, and the world, back to normal.

“I am very grateful to both of them for their generous participation and thanks also should be given to the brilliant writer Stephen Pipe and producer, Clare Gibson, who both generously gave their time to this.”

So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office?

Well, yes, it is quite amusing and, yes, we do actually quite like it and it is way better than “Grim Whitty”. However, having said that you have to wonder what the point is of this old pals’ act? Novel as it is to get two British “institutions” to big up the jab, it has been well documented that the people who are most reluctant to get vaccinated are from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

One primary care network in North Staffordshire confirmed that rates of people from BAME communities who did not attend vaccine clinics were 10 times higher than the average, and GP groups have also expressed concerns that false information is contributing to BAME patients not attending clinics or being reluctant to come forward for vaccination.

Meanwhile the Government’s own scientific group for emergencies (SAGE) has warned of a ‘significant risk’ that vaccine uptake for Covid-19 will be lower among minority ethnic groups and called for barriers to uptake in these communities to be ‘understood and addressed’.

Will two old white blokes hamming it up – whether knights of the realm or not – really tackle that? Unlikely.

Decision Marketing Adometer: A “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” 6 out of 10

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