Young adults’ preferences for influenza vaccination campaign messages: Implications for COVID-19 vaccine intervention design and development

Zhaohui Su, Dean McDonnell, Jun Wen, Ali Cheshmehzangi, Junaid Ahmad, Edmund Goh, Xiaoshan Li, Sabina Šegalo, Michael Mackert, Yu Tao Xiang, Peiyu Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Health campaign interventions, particularly those tailored to the target audience's needs and preferences, can cost-effectively change people's attitudes and behaviors towards better health decision-making. However, there is limited research on how to best tailor seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns for young adults. Vaccination is vital in protecting young adults and their social circles (vulnerable populations like older adults) from the influenza virus and critical in shaping these emerging adults’ vaccination habits in the long run. However, amid the prevalence of easily-accessible, attention-grabbing, and often malicious false and misinformation (e.g., COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories), it may be more challenging to develop vaccination messages that resonate with young adults well enough to attract their attention. Therefore, to bridge the research gap, this study examines young adults’ preferences for seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns to inform effective intervention design and development. Methods: Qualitative survey questions were developed to gauge young adults’ preferences for seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns. A total of 545 young adults (73.9% female, Mage ​= ​19.89, SD ​= ​1.44) from a large University offered complete answers to a cross-sectional online survey. Braun and Clarke's thematic analysis procedures were adopted to guide the data analysis process. Results: Thematic analysis revealed that young adults prefer seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns that rely on (1) quality and balanced information from (2) credible information sources, positioned in the (3) relevant health contexts, (4) emphasize actionable messages, and incorporate (5) persuasive campaign design. Interestingly, while many participants underscored the importance of fear-appeal messages in persuading them to take health actions, some young adults also suggested avoiding fear campaigns due to discomfort. Conclusions: Insights of the study can inform seasonal influenza vaccination design and development, and have the potential to shed light on vaccination messaging in other vaccine contexts, such as COVID-19 vaccines. Results also underscore the need for health experts and government officials to adopt a more nuanced approach when selecting persuasive campaign appeals. While some young adults may resonate well with fear appeals, others may not. Future research could examine the underlying mechanisms that drive young adults’ preference for vaccination campaign intervention to enrich the literature further.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100261
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity - Health
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Health campaign
  • Health messaging
  • Intervention
  • Message tailoring
  • Thematic analysis
  • Vaccination


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