Can moms sway the vaccine hesitant? One metro Atlanta county hopes so

On a recent Monday afternoon, Local Republic, a restaurant in Lawrenceville, had replaced its patrons and wait staff with lights, cameras, and a film crew.

“Let’s roll everybody please!” the director called out. 

“Rolling!” the crew, clad in black, replied in unison.

The stars of the shoot were four Gwinnett county mothers, who sat around a table discussing their decisions to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The makeup team makes you feel like you’re a rockstar,” said Normica Provitt, one of the moms participating in the production. “And coming from a momma with four kids who’s been stuck at home during COVID. It’s great.”

Provitt, who lives in Lawrenceville, says she’s had family members die from complications of COVID-19 and has others who are hesitant to get vaccinated. The disruptions of the last year have also been hard for her teenage children.

All of that contributed to her decision to volunteer to appear in the video, which will be published on Gwinnett’s communication channels this week. It’s part of a larger, county-run coronavirus-focused messaging campaign called #ListenToGwinnettMoms.

 “It’s important as a wife and a mom and a woman in Gwinnett to try to get some form of normal back,” Provitt said.

Governments and health agencies across the state are turning to public messaging campaigns to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Gwinnett County hopes it’s found a convincing messenger: moms.

Officials there started the campaign last year using money from the CARES Act, one of the federal coronavirus relief packages. The county estimates it’s spent about $500,000 on the effort so far.

While it started out focused on prevention measures like handwashing, the campaign recently pivoted to focus on vaccination as a way to supplement on-the-ground efforts to get shots in arms.

“If we have a mobile unit that’s going into the communities, but people are hesitant about getting the vaccine, is that really successful?” said Nicole Hendrickson, the current chair of the Gwinnett commission. She inherited the ad campaign from her predecessor, Charlotte Nash.

There’s a good bit of vaccine hesitancy in the large, diverse county, Hendrickson says. And, like Georgia as a whole, Gwinnett still has a lot of room to improve it’s vaccination rate: just 40 percent of residents have started the process, according to state data.

Hendrickson hopes the right messengers–moms from different racial and ethnic backgrounds–can change that.

“We listen to our moms. Our moms are trusted,” she said. “And so if we see our moms getting the vaccine, we’re going to be more compelled to get our vaccine.” 

And there’s polling to back that up. 

The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation says family members are some of the most trusted messengers about COVID-19 vaccines, right after health care providers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.