Following on from yesterday’s post where I said that administering the vaccine ‘must be and remain a personal choice to be made by individuals without coercion or compulsion’, an NHS document on the Local Government Association’s website dated December 2020 has been brought to my attention that clearly violates this principle (https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Vaccination%20do%20and%20donts%20by%20audience%20cohorts.pdf). If this document is being used as the basis for the rollout at a local level across the country, it would appear that the government (or at least local government) is intent on using coercive behavioural psychology to drive the success of the vaccine programme. This document lists several ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ designed for local government campaigns to strongarm people into receiving a vaccine. I’ve listed several highlights from this document below, but the whole document is certainly an intriguing and indeed frightening read:
- (p. 6): On the ‘Cohort – Systems Leaders, Managers and Coordinators’ page, the document states ‘Don’t assume leaders will know what to say, provide the headlines’ indicating a centralised approach to the political messaging behind the rollout.
- (p. 7): On the ‘Cohort – Health and Social Care (Immunisers)’ page, the document brushes with emotive feelings of NHS religiosity to ‘Ensure any guides and messages supporting recruiting volunteers also focusses on retaining immunisers. This should emphasise ‘Immuniser’ is a recognised and accredited role, and is key to getting the nation ‘back to normal’, thus creating a sense of pride and of feeling valued and appreciated.’ which is followed by the propagandist message ‘“Immunisers are the latest ‘NHS Heroes’ – your important role will make a difference – enabling the NHS and people to return to normal, supporting staff in providing usual care and reducing waiting lists.”’
- (p. 8): On the ‘Cohort – Care Home Residents’ page, the document states that ‘You are going first in the roll out for your personal protection, quality of life, family access, and return to normal’ despite the fact that the majority of care home residents have received a vaccine but have not yet received the return to proper family access and normality as promised here. It suggests that collectivist incentivisation should be provided to encourage take-up by ‘certification that the care home has achieved the required vaccination levels and visible/tangible acknowledgement for an individual who has had the vaccine. Promote that this a national effort, with everyone pulling together’ with accompanying propaganda such as ‘“Your Care Home is safe’ posters, ‘I’m halfway there/I’ve taken the first step’ badge/sticker for a two-dose vaccine’.
- (p. 9): On the ‘Cohort – Over 65s’ page, the document promotes the use of a sickening bribe tactic that emphasises ‘“This vaccine is effective in your age group and will allow you to return to normality, which means freedom do what you enjoy, such as group classes, swimming, seeing friends and family, and getting your life back.”’ and that this should be reinforced by a message reflecting normative social influence that ‘“Most people are getting vaccinated”’.
- (p. 10): On the ‘Cohort – Health and Care workers (Recipients)’ page, the document states ‘Emphasise and repeat that the vaccine will reduce transmission of the virus’ despite the fact that seasonal factors are at this moment reducing the transmission rate regardless of the effectiveness of a vaccine and that ‘The vaccine will reduce transmission of the virus in addition to reducing severity of the illness’ despite the fact the government itself has acknowledged you can still get the virus after being given the vaccine (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-what-to-expect-after-vaccination/what-to-expect-after-your-covid-19-vaccination) which renders the claim at odds with the logic of the following message that ‘“You can safely see your vulnerable friends and relatives after successful uptake of vaccination”’.
- (p. 11): On the ‘Cohort – Young People’ page, the document states with superficial sympathy that ‘“We understand the restrictions have caused you anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation. You are invited later during the vaccine roll-out because you are unlikely to get ill and have complications”’, thereby disregarding the severe decline in mental health and physical wellbeing of younger people that has led to a widespread deficit in the development of their skills and in certain cases has resulted in lockdown-related suicides (https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-parents-who-lost-teenagers-to-suicide-in-lockdown-issue-warning-theres-going-to-be-a-lot-of-ptsd-12221072). This is followed by the disgusting coercive threat that ‘“normality can only return for you and others, with your vaccination”’. The next comments speak for themselves, but try replacing the term ‘conspiracy theories’ with ‘inconvenient facts’: ‘Acknowledge conspiracy theories, identify which ones have most traction through social media and counter through clear evidence based, unemotional messaging, including from trusted sources’, followed by the claim that ‘the conspiracies are resonating because trust has been lost’ accompanied by a note that ‘NHS messages will be more trusted than Government messages’. Most tellingly, this section reveals the likelihood of future restrictions by saying ‘“The more young people vaccinated, the safer it will be and the less likely will be future lockdowns.”’ coupled with the aforementioned logical fallacy that ‘“The vaccine is not 100% effective, so if only your older relative has it you could still give them the virus if you are not vaccinated”’.