If you’ve got a message that you want everyone in the community to hear, what do you do? Anything involving the internet is going to leave out a lot of people, so that’s no good. Television isn’t watched as much as it used to be, and it’s probably expensive to put a message on there. Nobody reads newspapers anymore, right? So what do you do?
In the case of the Dubuque County Public Health Incident Management Team, you put something in people’s mailboxes. The other day I received this really colorful 12 inch by 9 inch double-sided information sheet on card stock of some sort, and the first thing I read on it was “VACCINE ACCESS” listed in black letters in the top right corner. Underneath that it read, in smaller red caps, “PLEASE DO NOT CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER OR PUBLIC HEALTH ABOUT GETTING VACCINATED AT THIS TIME.” (Do not call your “public health”? Oh well.) Then underneath that, in black letters but not all caps, it says, “Vaccinations will first be given to priority groups decided by the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health. Examples include: healthcare workers, nursing home residents, first responders, essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and older adults.” And then underneath that, still on the right side of the page, this time in white letters with an orange background, it says, “Please get vaccinated when supplies increase and you are eligible. Vaccinations will be free and are expected to be available to all adults at healthcare providers, pharmacies, and vaccination clinics.” There’s a star beside the word “adults,” which is because “Vaccines for children are not yet available.” There a note across the bottom of the page (in white letters with a red background) that says, “VACCINES ARE NOT YET AVAILABLE FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC.” Then there’s more information below that in red letters with a white background, and there are various other colors all over the page with general information, and on the other side there’s a black background with an abstract rendering of the virus on it and six different font/color combinations of print, and another orange section entitled “What Local Experts Want You to Know,” and the whole thing is visually stunning, a real attention-grabber. It looks like a modern textbook, it’s so beautiful. I’ve often wondered how children learn anything from such beautiful books.
The information is pretty good though. I never expect much information content when I see catchy graphics, but this mailing isn’t bad. It explains all about COVID-19 and repeats the usual CDC guidelines for “stopping the spread,” as we say now (social distancing, washing hands, etc.), and as I read this, my first thought was that I’d heard this a thousand times for about a year on television. The thing is, not everyone watches television much, so maybe this is news for them. It’s written at an adult level too, which struck me as odd. I’m used to a junior-high reading level from doctors’ pamphlets, I suppose. As an example, here’s the answer to the question “How safe is the vaccine and what about side effects?” as stated by Dr. Hendrik Schultz, a member of the Dubuque County Board of Health:
The safety of the COVID-19 vaccine has been closely monitored by the CDC, FDA, and other agencies. The possibility of having an allergic reaction is rare and extremely small. A mild immune reaction is a common side effect, however. We intend for this to happen when you receive a vaccination, as your immune system forms a response to build protection.”
I don’t know how many people in Dubuque County read their mail addressed to “Postal Customer” as thoroughly as I do, but for people who do, this method of getting the word out is very effective. I can’t help thinking about the homeless though, and people who don’t read well enough to wade through all of this verbiage. Hopefully social service agencies can help them.