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Radio Is Well Positioned for Shot Advocacy

Here are some ways your station can help

What would Elvis do? Here, the King receives a polio vaccination from Dr. Leona Baumgartner and Dr. Harold Fuerst at CBS Studio 50 in New York in 1956. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
What would Elvis do? Here, the King receives a polio vaccination from Dr. Leona Baumgartner and Dr. Harold Fuerst at CBS Studio 50 in New York in 1956. (Photo by Seymour Wally/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

American patriotism does not belong to a political party. Do you disagree? Or perhaps discussion of this topic makes you uncomfortable? At least I’ve got you thinking about what it means to live in a democratic society.

Here’s a gut punch: Is getting the COVID-19 vaccine patriotic?

Medical authorities and most Americans say the “jab” is the only real way out of the pandemic. Some though feel that being coerced into vaccination is wrong in a free society, or believe the vaccine is not as safe as others Americans commonly get.

Not taking a stance on vaccination or being loud with encouraging messaging is a choice your radio station must discuss internally, if it hasn’t already, because this issue still hovers over our entire country as we seek to climb out of isolation, unemployment and fear.

Even at less-than-perfect efficacy, it is clear that vaccinations work beautifully to stem the tide. Not taking a stance is a choice, but your upper management should at least do so consciously instead of passively.

Beyond the mask

We all understand that when stations take political positions, as talk radio does, a specific form of politics will echo through the attitude the station projects. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s especially true in these times of “identity politics.”

However, this vaccination question — especially locally — is so important that avoiding the topic does not give even talk stations a pass. In fact, the issue should be debated regularly on the air. From what I’ve been hearing, the talk corner of the dial is not fully rejecting the idea of vaccination. Some on-air personalities and many listeners are open to it.

While masks remain important, we’re not just talking about those anymore. The increasing success of vaccination brings a lot more to the table in terms of supporting the health of one’s fellow Americans and aiding our economic recovery.

The more people who are vaccinated, the closer we are to the herd immunity that we need to compensate for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or well-established religious reasons.

If nothing else, it’s time to clue in vaccine skeptics that, while the jab is a choice, there will certainly be personal repercussions of rejecting it.

Depending on particular state law, some companies and entertainment or dining venues may employ or admit only those who hold vaccine certification. There will be much debate and angst about the right of the individual vs. the right of a business to protect its customers. Even so, some domestic and most international travel without vaccination proof will be restricted.

And perhaps most important, beating back COVID-19 will most certainly affect in-person school attendance. Our country needs our kids safely back in school more than ever. If necessary, do good research to bust the myths using information from your local health department.

Idea list

For stations ready to go all-in with encouragement, here are kickstarter ideas.

Showcase short sound bites of your own on-air personalities saying that they got the shot with local places now taking appointments. If you can get format stars or other local celebrities to do this too, it will amplify the effect.

Consider promos with stats and studies showing that vaccination is safe. Interview well-known local doctors, along with little-league coaches, youth advocates who want open schools and public health, cultural and other community leaders.

Go for community rather than government. If there’s a mass-vaccination place like a stadium, do live remotes or regular cut-ins with updates on wait times and interviews with locals who just got the shot.

Highlight local business owners who want to encourage people to vaccinate so that they can fully reopen. If you’re able to obtain the percentage number of vaccinations in your city or county, highlight this percentage daily, or weekly, to show progress.

When you start to dive into all the things a station can do, the list gets long. In your heart you surely know that this type of advocacy is something radio stations do very well. Radio is the ideal platform for propagating community health and well-being. What could be more patriotic?

Read more Promo Power columns from Mark Lapidus.