As COVID-19 vaccination rates plateau across the U.S., the Ad Council is again ramping up its efforts to encourage people to get shots, this time enlisting several descendants of Black Americans who took part in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to help ease vaccine hesitation in Black communities.
Released today, ads starring Tuskegee victims’ descendants are an extension of the Ad Council’s major pro-vaccine “It’s Up To You” effort—the largest public service drive in the group’s history. The new ads are built for Black audiences, 22% of whom remain on the fence about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to Kaiser Family Foundation research.
“In the process of creating multiple campaign elements, what we have heard over and over in the Black community was an overwhelming amount of distrust,” says Kelli Richardson Lawson, founder and CEO of Washington, D.C. creative agency Joy Collective, which helped develop the campaign alongside the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative.
“You hear, ‘I’m not messing around with the government,’ ‘I don’t trust the government,’” Lawson says, adding that among Black people she’s met who are hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, all have universally cited Tuskegee as a core factor in their reasoning.
“Even though this was almost 50 years ago, the trauma has really affected many of us. It’s a painful, traumatic experience,” she says.