Vaccine messaging missing the mark for young men says Zac Seidler
Men’s mental health specialist Dr Zac Seidler says messaging that encourages young men to get a COVID-19 vaccine needs to speak more directly to its target audience.
Writing for ABC News on Sunday, Movember's Director of Mental Health Training said young men had been less willing to come forward for their shots, just as they had been found to be least likely to seek help for both mental or physical health concerns.
“And if they do,” continued Zac, “many health practitioners will tell you it can be a headache getting them to engage in treatment.
“I've become accustomed to an hour-long therapy session punctured with intermittent grunts and mono-syllabic responses from many young guys I see, who are supposedly there for their own self-betterment.
"What I realised quite early on in my work with this group was that I was pushing my own agenda, one many young guys just don’t buy.”
Dr Seidler said men lagged behind women in getting vaccinated in all age groups, until 60+ years, and Government needed to "read the room" when it came to reaching younger males. Scare tactics was not necessarily the answer, he said, referring to a recent advertisement depicting a younger, COVID-afflicted woman gasping for breath in hospital.
“Some young guys that I work with have shared with me that they often see these ads as a challenge to overcome. These guys are socialised to eat risk for breakfast, to be competitive and to overestimate their confidence in handling tough situations,” he said.
In addition, Dr Seidler points out that women are more accustomed to navigating the health system to find somewhere to get the vaccination. “They do it from an early age and are primed to prevent illness, from pap smears to more frequent sunscreen application and dental check-ups.
“Men, on the other hand, are well-trained to respond only when crisis looms. With well-targeted messaging we can appeal to all groups to get jabs in arms.
“The immunologists have done their part in making sure these vaccines are safe. Now, to get them into young men's arms we need to go to those who engage men for a living.”
Since publishing the article and sharing on his Twitter account @zacseidler - has drawn strong reaction from supporters and detractors.
"I wonder with the gap in the younger age groups of (sic) that's a result of the highly gendered nature of our workforce? Women make up the bulk of caring and health industries and were therefore eligible for the jab earlier?" replied political reporter Shalailah Medhora.
"Definitely comes into play," responded Zac. "But these gender effects are playing out the world over in rollouts far ahead of ours. Regardless, we know young guys engage with their health in very different ways so no harm in getting ahead of this with some new thinking!"
Eye surgeon Dr Daya Sharma commended the article and suggested a "kebab for a jab" initiative, which had been used successfully in the UK.
Psychiatrist Mark Cross, author of "Changing Minds" said Zac's views, "Can extrapolate to general health, including MH. The young men I know, & treat, are frustrated they are vilified, rather than aided to get vaccinated."