|One of the most timely and fascinating areas of DTC will be for flu this year. Usually flu advertising is limited in timing and spending. This upcoming season, when America will be dealing with Covid-19 and the flu concurrently, flu advertising has some new opportunities and challenges.|
As we hear regularly from Dr. Fauci, the combination of flu and Covid-19 poses diagnostic confusion for doctors. Therefore the CDC and other health care agencies will be pushing widespread flu vaccination this year to reduce the number of cases of seasonal flu so our hospitals and testing centers are not overwhelmed.
There are only a few flu vaccine and treatment makers in the United States. Sanofi Pasteur (Fluzone) vaccine and Genentech (Xofluza) for treatment are the companies who advertised in 2019. The flu market is large with 45% of adults getting vaccinated. We can suspect this percentage will rise in 2020 as receptivity should grow as no one wants to risk both the flu and Covid-19. Therefore we should expect significant DTC for both flu vaccines and treatment this season, perhaps at higher spending levels.
Unfortunately, the percent of population vaccinated has been only between 40-45% for the past decade. CDC estimates that a 5-percentage point increase would reduce hospitalizations by up to 11,000. This year, when ICU bed utilization may be at or over capacity with Covid-19 patients, any reduction would be critical. We also see clear evidence of health disparities as 49% whites are vaccinated, while only 39% of African-Americans and 37% of Hispanics get the flu shot. This may be the year for a special DTC effort to narrow the gap.
Fluzone will need to add to their normal messaging given the Covid-19 situation. They will have to motivate people to get the flu vaccine at a time patients may still be reluctant to see a health care provider out of Covid-19 contagion fear. It will be interesting to see if masks are added to the actor patients.
Vaccines are going to be a major area of ongoing government focus as the world needs to prevent another pandemic. We will always be at risk for the unknown pathogen but given the massive cost in lives and destruction of national economies, it is reasonable to see increased investment. Pharma companies will also ramp up R&D recognizing the enormous potential of new vaccines. All the basic work being done on Covid-19 will lead to possible vaccines for other similar viruses.
What will Covid-19 vaccine makers do with DTC if they get approval this fall? That depends how many vaccines are available. Clearly if we have only one approved vaccine, then government and the media will give that drug massive free publicity. On the other hand, the first approved vaccine will benefit from building up brand identification to prepare for multiple competitors. A non-branded campaign would make sense to sell the public on safety and efficacy as that will be a strong concern given the speed of approval.
An approved Covid-19 vaccine will be seen as the biggest medical news in years. I will be thrilled to review that DTC campaign.
|Bob Ehrlich, Chairman|
DTC Perspectives, Inc.