Staying #OneStepAhead of the flu on social media

Influenza is a serious disease. Not for everyone, but for the most vulnerable fringe of the population, namely infants, elderly people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions. Even if benign in most cases, influenza does put those populations at risk and severely affects 3 to 5 million people worldwide every year. Sadly, severe reactions to the virus lead to between 250.000 and 500.000 death annually (World Health Organization)1.

Thankfully, such disastrous consequences can be easily prevented with vaccination. Indeed, the flu shot has been estimated to be able to prevent up to 80% of flu-related casualties amongst the elderly population. Vaccination is a way to protect oneself, but is also key in stemming the spread of the virus. (International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturer & Associations2; Why should taking flu shot be your business with Dr. Bram Palache3).

Influenza virus

Considering the significant gap that lies between the recommendations outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding vaccination and their actual implementation, it is evident that there is ample room for progress in the fight against the virus. It is exactly with this logic in mind that large coalitions decided to tackle the problem by raising awareness online. The Influenza Hub, with its platform aimed at spreading awareness about flu prevention, and Vaccines Today with its interactive forum to guide the debate on issues surrounding vaccination. Those two initiatives are complementary and were both set up and supported by ZN in order to put them at the cutting edge of the communication front.

When it comes to Vaccines Today it is important to note that it focuses on all types of vaccination, and not just influenza. The target audience is the general public and others with an interest in immunisation.

Vaccines continue to make headlines around the world and are of great interest to citizens and health professionals alike. The Vaccines Today platform strives to provide an interactive forum for informed debate on issues around vaccination, as well as to serve as a source of reliable information, bringing the community of stakeholders together to share their views.

To facilitate an informed discussion that takes all views on vaccination into account, the content of Vaccines Today is produced through interviews with experts from academia, patient groups, and industry experts, along with reports based on scientific literature and conferences.We found digital to be the perfect tool as it allows us to reach out to the maximum amount of people while at the same time targeting specific groups. It is undeniable that digital communication is also significantly more cost efficient than traditional communication for a comparable reach. Moreover, contrarily to traditional communication, digital media allow for flexibility and responsiveness.

Building up on the actions of Vaccines Today, the Influenza Hub platform was created to spread the message, assist the people affected by the virus and foster awareness online on the latest medical development. This initiative was first introduced in France and Germany but its success is preparing it for a wider introduction. This campaign focuses on vulnerable populations, starting with the most identifiable and digitally growing group among them, the elderly. Every year more and more silver surfers join the internet. In 2006 in France and Germany only 6% and 12% of them used the internet. However, in 2014 in France and Germany, 38% and 34% of this age group use this technology (Eurostat, 2014) and this number is still going up. There are many misconceptions surrounding influenza. It is only by changing perceptions with engaging and shareable information that we can make a change. More and more people of this age group are active on Facebook and while they do not like or share as much as younger groups, targeted health information does get read and appreciated.

Philip Weiss

Bram Palache

Targeting this audience proves to be a pertinent strategy as the Influenza Hub and its associated Facebook page were able to reach out to 820.000 people and gathered 500.000 users. Out of the population that used the platform and the facebook page, 97% of them were over 55 years old, showcasing very accurate targeting. The website generated 54,000 clicks and the combined videos generated 140.000 views (2017 not included). Subsequently, we can say that using digital tools for this age group is working above expectations.

We need further investment and focus to reach out to people to fight #fakenews where people are exposed to it the most: On social media. As we all know, despite the progress of medicine and the ever increasing interconnectedness of our society, the number of people vaccinating against Influenza is declining, as observed by influenza vaccine specialist Bram Palache. This rising disregard when it comes to Influenza has to be countered if we are to remain one step ahead of a pandemic. Influenza Hub is the tip of the spear in this combat and is taking action to reverse this tendency by providing the necessary prevention information. It is in order to support this initiative that Bram Palache and Philip Weiss (ZN Consulting’s CEO) presented the Influenza Hub at the European Scientific Working group on Influenza (ESWI) conference 4 which is at the forefront of this fight.

Influenza Conference Riga


1. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs211/en/
2. http://www.ifpma.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Influenza_s_Impact_on_NCDs-White_Paper-J.McElhaney-April2012.pdf
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=91&v=zJm5A29D1BU
4. http://eswi.org/influenzaconferences

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