By Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis
In the same way that — within a short year – many of us became fluent in conversational virology, it appears as though we are now attaining a high level of knowledge on the complex nuances of immunology that until recently was known only to researchers, specialist and anti-vaxers.
Most of us are able to list the COVID vaccine options in terms of country of origin, the number of doses required, the efficacy levels per variant and required storage temperatures and the rate per capita of each country’s vaccination roll out. This is not dissimilar to how we as children used to, play Racing Cards or Land Animals.
“My Rhino at 2300 kg is heavier than your 1800 kg hippo, but slower than your cheetah that runs at 120 km per hour, but who can only run for 30 seconds.” It so happened that in 1981 I was Fresh Water (lake) Fish block champion for a number of weeks.
A recent article in Business Insider reported that there around 20 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine than can be accessed for South Africans. All we have to do is ask, and of course approve it and they will be on the way. Unfortunately, aside from an appallingly scary name and the fact that SAPHRA is very focused on keeping us safe from Ivermectin, is a distinct lack of information around the efficacy in terms of the South African variant or 501Y.V2. That and the fact that the testing was limited to white males.
Which seems unfair to just about everyone, including the white males (who live to an average age of 78 and whose weight has increased by around 5 kg since the beginning of lockdown).
The question of branding also needs to be considered. Whereas one would assume that us lock-down wary folk would leap at any opportunity for even a small chance of immunity, we are most likely going to be a little hesitant to embrace a medication with a name that makes us think of the Cold War, of a poor stray Moscow dog sent into space to die, and of cheap vodka (maybe the last point is just me). I believe that if South Africans are to be persuaded to consider the possibility of being “Sputniked”, a rebrand is in order.
Imagine, for example, if Woolworths Foods were to white label the Sputnik, so that it becomes a Woolworths branded product. We are confident that the standard is high, the cold storage would rival any laboratory (maybe too cold), and they could use their new “Dash” App for quick same-day service (not that I have tried it). The demand would outstrip supply in no time at all, with WhatsApp and Facebook groups sharing which “Woolies” still has stock. In the unlikely event of them not running out of vaccines, they could even consider placing some doses at the check-out lines next to the Chuckles so that the tired and irritable children of the well-heeled could have something fresh and different to nag for.
One of the concerns around the Astra zeneca vaccine is the expiry date. One social media user even went to far as to say that in addition to worrying about if it will work or not, he is also petrified that “it will expire inside him” and launched an entire conversation as to what that could mean. Which is yet another reason to market the previously named Sputnik V along with trusted South African brands that would not venture weeks near expiration.
It’s seriously a winning strategy. I am not only disappointed, but also shocked that I have not been invited on to the government vaccine committee.
It is patently obvious that we need to think this whole vaccine thing: not only because the Oxford- Astra Zeneca doesn’t work on South Africans (or more accurately, on the variant first identified in South Africa), but because having been forced to pause, we are presented with a unique opportunity to consider our options and our priorities.
Perhaps it’s time that doctors, virologists and government stopped messing about and turned to those of us with not only Facebook, but also friends who have read articles. It is high time that they asked for assistance. And this is coming from the 1981 fresh water (lake) fish reigning champion. For at least two or three weeks.