The oddly affecting Google vaccination ad

I feel like it’s not entirely healthy that an ad consisting of nothing more than search terms can provoke an emotional response.

On the other hand, as many others remarked when this spot ran during the Final Four this weekend, the message here is far superior to the CDC’s. Last week Rochelle Walensky’s shop told us alternately that we were facing “impending doom;” that vaccinated people couldn’t carry the virus; that, actually, vaccinated people could carry the virus but it was still okay for them to travel; and that they shouldn’t travel anyway, just to be on the safe side.


Contrast that with the simple elegance of Google’s point: Go get the shot and get your life back.

In an advertising competition between a private entity that has to make money or die and an unaccountable federal agency, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the corporation wins. Watch, then read on.

Americans are getting the shot and getting their lives back. On Friday and Saturday we averaged four million doses per day, pushing the seven-day average north of three million. That’s around one percent of Americans every 24 hours. At the current pace, assuming we can find enough willing recipients, we could have at least one dose in 70 percent of the population as soon as June 15. Among senior citizens, we’ve already crossed that threshold. More than 75 percent of adults aged 65 or over have had their first shot and more than half have had their second. What does that look like in practice?

It looks like this. The pool of people who are most vulnerable to dying of COVID is shrinking.

Fewest deaths in a year. In Israel, where an even higher percentage of the population has been vaccinated, scientists now talk openly of the COVID endgame:

After a lockdown during the second wave, infection rates soon increased and never dropped until another lockdown was imposed. But after the third wave, “the effect of the vaccines kicked in”, [biologist Eran Segal] said. The R number (the growth of infections) has since dropped to its lowest level in the pandemic, he said, even though the economy is more open than it has been for a year

In the coastal city of Tel Aviv, beaches have been packed for the Passover holiday. When the sun sets, thousands of people head to bars and restaurants. While indoor locations are supposed to scan people’s green pass, which has a QR code, many bars appear to assume their customers are immunised…

Adi Niv-Yagoda, an expert in health policy at Tel Aviv University and a member of the health ministry’s Covid-19 advisory panel, said he believed Israel may have almost reached an endpoint in the pandemic.


Meanwhile, here in the U.S., our public-health bureaucracy can’t explain why vaccinated people shouldn’t travel and only now, after 13 months, has finally gotten around to officially informing the public that viral transmission via touching contaminated surfaces is unlikely. The experts aren’t going back to normalcy without kicking and screaming, but they’ll eventually get there. We’re going to drag them by following Google’s advice instead.

I’ll leave you with Scott Gottlieb once again nudging the Walenskys of the world to be realistic about their health guidance. Both he and she noted today that younger people are driving the rise in cases in some states, which is what you’d expect given how many older people have been vaccinated. Spring is here, restrictions are loosening, the young are unprotected, and they want to get together. It’s a race between the virus and the vaccine to see if we get a true wave out of that or not.

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