Hennen: Is $3.7 million in vaccine promotion a good use of our tax dollars?
"This is government money that the Department of Health is using to carpet bomb consumers with a message that has mostly fallen on deaf ears," InForum columnist Scott Hennen writes about money spend on vaccine advertising.
You can't turn on a television or a radio, or open a newspaper, without seeing an enormous amount of advertising telling you to get vaccinated.
I asked the North Dakota Department of Health for the amount of state funds spent since the pandemic began to promote and encourage North Dakotans to be vaccinated. The answer is $3,700,539.83 or 9% of the $40,529,000 North Dakota has received in federal COVID-19 money.
But wait, there's more.
This is in addition to the federal CARES funding, which was spent in North Dakota for early vaccine education and awareness. Just a portion of these funds was specifically designated to communication efforts and cannot be used for other purposes. The North Dakota Legislature recently repurposed other federal COVID-19 dollars for infrastructure and other projects unrelated to the pandemic.
As someone who has sold advertising, and who wouldn't have been on the radio in North Dakota since 1984 without the support of advertisers, I'm not anti-advertising by any means. Marketing is a powerful tool for any product or cause to gain traction. However I would estimate that 99% of the advertising our companies have received is invested by the private sector.
This is government money that the Department of Health is using to carpet bomb consumers with a message that has mostly fallen on deaf ears.
North Dakota's vaccination rate is 57%, which means 43% have rejected the Department of Health's taxpayer-funded pleading.
Is there anyone, anywhere in North Dakota today that is not aware of the danger COVID-19 can bring to families, businesses and our healthcare institutions? Who among us doesn't know someone who has had COVID-19, been hospitalized with COVID-19, or are among the 800,000-plus people nationwide that have died from COVID-19?
We are in a very different place today than we were when we all first heard the word SARS-CoV-2. North Dakotans are smart, savvy and informed citizens. Rather than continuing to spend millions of dollars pleading with people to make a health decision that you prefer, the Department of Health should recognize this investment has failed.
Why not encourage people to have a relationship with their doctor to make these kinds of personal health decisions? Why not promote the myriad of therapeutics that are available as a treatment for COVID-19? How about promoting a robust discussion about things we can do to improve our immune system?
The data proves that, as of today, the vaccine— a huge accomplishment of former Pres. Donald Trump 's Warp Speed Initiative — is the best way to avoid death or hospitalization. It has saved millions of lives worldwide. It's also obvious that the COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing among those of us who are fully vaccinated.
None of this opinion is meant to denigrate the vaccine, but this is a very personal decision that should be left between the patient and a trusted medical professional.
Let's stop using enormous amounts of taxpayer money to shame people into doing what health bureaucrats want them to do.
Scott Hennen hosts the statewide radio program “What’s On Your Mind?” On AM 1100 “The Flag”, KFYR AM 550, AM 1090 KTGO “The Flag” and AM 1460 KLTC. Email him at ScottH@FlagFamily.com
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.