Want Gen Z on the COVID-19 vaccine train? Fresh online push is key, experts say – Global News

Tori Pareno became a face of Luminosity Gaming’s #LGIGotTheShot campaign when she was vaccinated against COVID-19 last year.

“I did it because I wanted to be with my loved ones. As cheesy as that sounds, I want to be with my family and my close friends at a time like this,” said the 21-year-old Luminosity Gaming streamer and content creator, who lives in Houston, Texas.

Luminosity Gaming is owned by Toronto-based company Enthusiast Gaming, and were recruited by the United States Ad Council last year to help encourage millennials and Gen Zers to get the jab. They came up with the #LGIgottheshot vaccine campaign, which promised hour-long streams with Luminosity talent like Pareno, signed jerseys and one-on-one sessions with their biggest gamers.

u + me = ♥️ both vaccinated ♥️

^ this could be us https://t.co/7VV18des0e

— LG Tori (@ToriPareno) May 28, 2021

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Almost 5.5 million people participated in the ad campaign, which experts say could become more common as lawmakers and public health officials turn to alternative methods to entice younger people to get vaccinated.

In the United States, Anthony Fauci has agreed to go on a ‘TikTok tour,’ joining several of the platform’s personalities for a series of discussions about COVID-19 vaccines, and the state of Alabama is hosting a TikTok contest for Americans aged 13 to 29.

“Gen Zers, they don’t watch television anymore and they don’t listen to the radio, but [they do] play video games and then when they’re done playing video games, they watch other people play video games,” said Adrian Montgomery, CEO of Enthusiast Gaming.

According to Montgomery, Enthusiast Gaming interacts with roughly 300 million Gen Xers and millennials each and every month through its gaming websites, YouTube channels and EA sports organizations. He said there “definitely seems to be a disconnect” among businesses and governing bodies alike when it comes to engaging with young people, a problem he says companies like his aim to solve.

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They’re doing different things. They’re consuming media and entertainment in new ways that have never been explored before, and so the old playbook doesn’t work,” he said of Gen Z.

“They don’t want the hard sell, so we were about raising awareness and giving them a conduit to getting more information about the vaccine. That in and of itself is what we determined with the Ad Council was hugely successful.”

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Canada is also getting creative with its vaccine campaigns. Provincial and municipal governments in Canada are also pivoting to more engaging methods.

More than 25,000 Canadians lined up for the jab during Toronto Vaccine Day at the city’s Scotiabank Arena, where some vaccine recipients won Toronto Maple Leaf or Toronto Raptor tickets for an upcoming game. Air Canada and WestJet did travel lotteries offering free flights for vaccinated Canadians. One Winnipeg cannabis company even handed out free weed.

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But despite all efforts, health officials say that not enough younger Canadians are offering up their arms.

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As of July 3, two in three Canadians between 12 and 39 had at least one dose, but that leaves 4.5 million Canadians in that age group without any protection.

Comparatively, almost four in five people between 40 and 60 have at least one dose, and more than nine in 10 people over 60.

Marcel Danesi, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Toronto, said the reason younger Canadians might be avoiding the vaccine could be because governments are not effectively communicating on social mediums used by youth.

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“Each generation speaks a kind of language, not a slang, a language, a way of thinking of things that is symbolic and critical to the group and to the mindset of that generation,” he said.

Danesi said that governments are “trying their best,” but aren’t tapping into the way millennials and Gen Zers think.

“Humour worked early on in the pandemic,” he said as an an example. “Images and memes that make them laugh, but also make them think reflectively about what’s going on.”

In addition, he said providing influential younger Canadians with the resources they need from governmental agencies, health agencies or doctors could be instrumental in helping youth who may be vaccine hesitant or feeling overwhelmed.

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“Words are like capsules of thought. If you get the right words in the right capsules, they are mind-changing ones,” Danesi added.

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This rings true for youth like Pareno, who told Global News that she felt like many people around her age seemed overloaded with information and exhausted trying to sift through extraneous details surrounding vaccines and vaccine appointments to get to what they need.

“Once I was able to get guided on all the questions I had, I was able to make it happen,” she said.

“If [governments] broke it down into what information is needed and what information [youth] need to use in order to get to where they want, then I feel like they would be able to make the decision on what makes them feel comfortable.”

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The best way to reach her generation?

“Social media,” she said.

“I’ll be completely honest. My generation is into gaming, my generation is into the Instagram, social media, TikTok, everything like that.”

— With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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