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Q & A : Thoughts on the Vaccine Crisis Communications Manual from WHO?
Someone asked me about a Twitter post that went viral this week that showed a very controversial Vaccine Crisis Communication Manual from the World Health Organization. Many people are stunned by the document as it illustrates a series of "scripted responses" to each vaccine's crisis severity level.
Here’s a document snippet showing a scenario where an infant died within 24 hours of vaccination.
The response is to “restore public trust” in the administered vaccine by engaging local media, community leaders and so forth.
Let me explain this document very briefly.
Usually, a crisis communications manual starts with a traffic light system that describes each scenario.
A green light, low-impact scenario means, “no need to panic, just proceed business as usual.”
A yellow light, medium-impact scenario means, “guys, we need to watch out!”
A red light, high-impact scenario means “All hands on deck! The shit has hit the fan!!!”
Every scenario comes with a set of algorithmic scripted responses. It looks like this.
It is just a collection of algorithmic responses that tells people what to do and how to react according to the severity of various situations.
When I worked at Big Pharma, selected public-facing employees were required to attend Media & Crisis Training.
I experienced a few of these, and let me share how one of these training went.
I arrived at work one day, and an emergency meeting was suddenly called. So I rushed into the meeting room, and all the Division Heads were there (GM, Medical Head, Regulatory Head, Legal Counsel, Compliance Head, Human Resource, Communications…etc.)
We switched on the TV and watched a "live telecast" of "real news" reporting that a famous actor's child had just died after taking our drug, and the actor was going ballistic and doing rounds with the news media.
Suddenly, our mobile phone starts ringing. I answered the call, and it was from a prominent doctor who used our product (these are all actors). He starts yelling and asking why we hid clinical trial data about some adverse events of our drug. We speak for several minutes, and then another phone call comes in. It's a call from a journalist from our national newspaper asking for comments.
We all tried to coordinate amongst ourselves while the phones kept ringing, and some TV reporters even came to our office lobby looking for comments. Again these are all actors. It was a very haphazard situation.
The simulated "event" ran for almost an entire day. We get chased around by TV reporters and get calls from doctors, hospitals, regulatory bodies, patient associations…etc.
These are just all scripted simulations. After the simulation, we did a post-mortem of how each of us performed.
Our phone conversations and "TV appearances" were recorded and played on the big screen for everyone to see.
It shows how each of us reacted during a crisis, and let me tell you, it was quite a hilarious and embarrassing moment for the executives who attended the training for the first time.
For many, appearing on television for the first time looks like this. The spotlight is quite glaring if you are not used to being on television.
Many seasoned executives can’t handle the spotlight despite trainings, just like this Pfizer executive who ran away.
After the simulated event, the trainers emphasize the need to have a “Crisis Communications Plan”, and then everyone is supposed to read and memorize it so that when a crisis develops, they will all follow the same script without thinking.
At the end of the training, we had a cocktail party to meet the celebrities and news anchors who were paid to role-play the entire simulation with us.
It can be quite an expensive because we pay top money for these media personalities.
Celebrities and news anchors make a lot of money from their side gigs with Big Pharma (and other Big Corporations).
We even have a rate card for celebrities and news anchors. The rate cards show how much each specific talent costs. It lists celebs for hire: for example, it would state: “Rachel Maddow: $30K per 15 min TV script, 15K for cocktail party appearance. Specialization in news anchoring”. I am making up the numbers and description, but you get the gist.
Some of these simulated crisis events go up to a few hundred thousand dollars because, over the next day or days, we have the media celebrities or news anchors giving us follow-up talks and training on how to react in front of cameras during crises.
We also use these media personalities and celebs for other activities, such as new drug launches or disease awareness campaigns. Some doctors like taking selfies and hanging out with celebrities. It boosts their ego, and boosted egos mean more drug prescriptions; otherwise, we won’t invite them to the party in the future.
Some celebrities have extended retainer contracts with Pharma. Look at Martha Stewart promoting the experimental jab here.
So, is this a controversial document, or is this a necessity for organizations to react in times of crisis? Having such a document at an organizational level is a good idea.
The bigger problem is the power given to the World Health Organization because it gives them complete control over any narratives. And don’t forget that these are unelected officials who are financially incentivized to carry out their agenda, and it is ultimately NOT about your health.