December has begun and flu season is definitely among us as the weather begins to grow colder. The number of influenza vaccinations have increased steadily since 2005 and the 2016- 2017 distribution count is sure to maintain this upward trend. There is a heightened public concerned about the flu virus and has even raised the question to state legislator if the flu vaccine should be mandatory for health care workers and employees in other industries. The increase in flu vaccinations has sparked many debates regarding its validity, effectiveness, and safety. Despite, the number of vaccinations distributed have earned pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars annually. The vaccination industry dominated by five pharmaceutical powerhouses and collectively worth about $24 billion. However this steady increase did not occur organically, it is due to an aggressive campaign pushed by the Center for Disease Control that promoted influenza awareness by targeting the audience, disseminating impactful marketing collateral, and utilizing social media.

There has been an increase in flu vaccination overall, but the demographics that were impacted the most were small children under the age of four and the elderly population. Since these groups are considered the most susceptible to viral infections, they are the top priority among all groups to receive the flu vaccination first. According to the CDC, about 47.1% of children under the age of four were vaccinated in the U.S. during the 2014-2015 flu season. Children of this age group are consistently receiving vaccinations for various other viruses and illnesses, so this is also the most convenient demographic to reach. When children are brought in for physical examinations or other vaccinations it is easier for healthcare providers to “upsell” or convince the parents to also consider a flu vaccination. This is a similar circumstance for the elderly population. Since this group is also more likely to visit their healthcare provider frequently, it is more feasible to inform them about the vaccination and distribute it as well.

Although the CDC targeted a few age demographics, they still broaden their reach by creating a social media campaign surrounding flu vaccinations. They launched the “#VaxWithME” selfie campaign to spread awareness. NFL football players, nurses, and many others participated in the campaign while often using the caption “spread the word, not the flu.” This campaign helped to create conversations around the topic as well as gather endorsements. For the CDC, this campaign helped catapult them out of their normal audience and into the mainstream population and spread their message. This campaign also worked in conjunction with a variety of strong marketing materials.


The marketing slogan and flyers that were created for the flu shot awareness campaign left a clear and direct message that was difficult to dispute. Slogans such as “You have the power to fight the flu” and “no more excuses, you need a flu vaccine” paired with images of families, placed the responsibility on the consumer to stop the spreading of the flu virus. These slogans placed a heavy social responsibility on each person by implicitly calling the public to action. These marketing materials in conjunction with the CDC’s other efforts created a direct impact on the increase in flu vaccination distribution.

This year approximately 131.9 million flu vaccines have been issued during the 2016 – 2017 flu season and this number is increasing. A mixture of market research on the audience, social media campaigns, and bold marketing messages have caused this increase and the momentum does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Pharmaceutical companies will need to increase production of the flu vaccine to keep up with the CDC marketing efforts.