Conclusions: Background: During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices identified young adults up to the age of 24 years as a priority group for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. This population has not been targeted for flu vaccines in prior years. Therefore, the challenge of motivating young adults to get vaccinated, in addition to their perceptions of being immune and immortal, is heightened by messages that are incongruent with their beliefs about flu. Objectives: Describe perceptions of risk of 2009 H1N1 influenza among young adults, identify opportunities for increasing perceived risk and motivating desired outcomes Methods: Online surveys and focus groups were conducted with young adults aged 19-24 years between August 2009 and in October 2009 to gauge perceptions of risk concerning 2009 H1N1 flu and to elicit feedback on draft messages and advertisements. Results: Young adults were aware of the high incidence of 2009 H1N1 flu among people their age, especially on college campuses. However, most expressed skepticism about the seriousness of H1N1. Comments suggested that young adults viewed the intense media coverage related to H1N1 as “hype.” Many commented that while they doubted they would get the H1N1 virus, even if they did become infected, they imagined they could overcome the illness relatively easily. Conclusions: Young adults are a difficult audience to motivate for preventive actions like vaccines, especially when they perceive a low risk from the flu. Some observations on strategies to motivate desired behaviors include:
- Use a testimonial approach with credible images to communicate the physical impact of the flu.
- Play on concerns about infecting others, especially infants, using an altruistic approach to motivate vaccination to protect people more vulnerable to serious complications.
- Use images and photos that are a genuine slice-of-life to make them more compelling.