Fatique and frustration over COVID

The latest KFF COVID-19 Monitor finds that fatigue and frustration dominate the public’s mood as the U.S. nears the pandemic’s second anniversary. While partisans have often been split in their pandemic attitudes, roughly three in four Democrats, independents, and Republicans say they feel “tired” and “frustrated,” and similar shares say they think it is likely that most people in the U.S. will eventually get infected with COVID-19.

Partisans divide on whether the pandemic is the country’s most critical issue. About half of Democrats chose COVID-19 as the most important among six different topics, and a similar share of Republicans chose inflation as the top issue.

The public overall says that compared to previous waves of the virus, they are now “more worried” about the impact of the omicron surge on the U.S. economy and on their local hospitals but “less worried” about the impact in their own personal lives. Notably, however, Black and Hispanic adults and those with lower incomes report higher levels of worry than their counterparts when it comes to missing work due to COVID-19 or becoming seriously ill or hospitalized, reflecting the increased burden the pandemic has placed on people of color over the past two years.

Is this affecting pharma?

Fifteen percent of those surveyed said they trust pharma companies more than before. However, on the flip side, only 16% believe pharma companies “market their products in a trustworthy manner,” and just 17% would allow pharma companies to work with their doctors to manage a chronic illness.

Consumers trust the ‘Health & Life Sciences’ industry the most when evaluating trust across a wide range of industries. It was rated almost double as trustworthy as any other industry. In a time where healthcare is top-of-mind, this isn’t surprising. However, when patients ranked which segments of ‘Health & Life Sciences’ were most trusted, respondents said healthcare providers as the ‘frontline heroes”. Unfortunately, the pharma industry ranked last relative to all other segments, including our polarizing government. Perhaps this reflects latent negative sentiments which patients have historically conveyed, as seen in other ‘reputation’ surveys.

When patients were asked to rate the impact of COVID-19 on trust in the pharma industry—specifically in the context of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine launches—there was a positive effect, with 35% of patients saying their trust had significantly or moderately increased. However, the net impact was only a modest increase in trust (+15%), as 45% said there was no change in their level of trust and 20% said their trust decreased. While the speed and intensity of vaccine development fostered trust with some patients, for others, it raised concerns around compromising safety & efficacy. Pharma has done a lot to minimize trust with a skeptical public, including raising prices and over the situation of DTC spots.

DTC marketers should be aware that the mood of consumers right now is, at best skeptical. They’re upset at lockdowns and negative media stories. There comes a time when people cease being afraid of being afraid.

Now is a great time to huddle with your agencies to develop new creative that considers changing patient attitudes towards healthcare. This is especially true for patients who have been putting off healthcare because of COVID.