Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Clever ads no cure for vaccine complacency

Mark Knight, May 27, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

Print Article

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with Health Minister Greg Hunt during Question Time in the House of Representatives in Parliament House, Canberra, ACT on May 13,2021. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage media_cameraPrime Minister Scott Morrison with Health Minister Greg Hunt during Question Time in the House of Representatives in Parliament House, Canberra, ACT on May 13,2021. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage


Reading level: red

The Covid-19 vaccine is recognised by health experts around the world as our way out of this pandemic. Vaccinating the world will be the largest health campaign we have ever seen, but if we are to defeat this highly virulent* virus then we need to get protected. We did it with the polio vaccine in the 1960s, so why can’t we do it now.

The Americans have got serious about it and have now vaccinated over half their population following the devastating hit they took in 2020. Australia is starting to pick up its vaccination rate after a slow start, but it still lags behind many countries, many of them developing nations.

Apart from Victoria’s disastrous second wave of the coronavirus in 2020, Australia has been able to keep the virus at bay. Being an island nation, the virus can only come into the country through overseas arrivals. However this natural barrier that prevents the spread of the virus may have made us complacent*. When vaccines became available, the take-up was slow. People thought that there was no hurry to get the vaccine because we were not in a situation like India. There was also vaccine hesitancy due to reports that in very rare cases (we’re talking one per million doses) the AstraZeneca vaccine produced blood clots in recipients*.

Health officials were concerned because it is not a matter of ‘if’ we have another wave of Covid, but when.

So the question was how do we encourage people to get vaccinated with all this conflicting and false information, particularly on social media. An ad campaign maybe? We’ve had a few ads, but they are really dull and watching paint dry is more entertaining!

I wanted to do a cartoon on this topic so I started looking at all the great TV ad campaigns in Australia over the years. Louie the Fly in the Mortein flyspray ad, our happy little Vegemites, Paul Hogan’s tourism Australia campaign in the ’80s where he “threw another shrimp on the barbie” and the hilarious Yellow Pages “Not Happy Jan” commercial. Just recently we had Magda Szubanski as Sharon Strezlecki with Kim Kardashian selling Uber Eats.

These ads stick in our memories because they are not just trying to influence us, they are funny as well as informative. So we remember their message. That’s how we could sell the idea of getting vaccinated!

But before I drew this cartoon, something happened. Melbourne had a Covid outbreak. Over a few days cases increased and government and health officials sounded worried. But guess what happened? People started to go and get vaccinated. Yes, that’s right. They were not motivated by an ad campaign but something even more powerful: self interest! They were concerned that Covid was back in Victoria and to protect themselves they sought out the vaccine. Now this was an even more interesting topic for a cartoon.

So I drew the PM Scott Morrison and his Health Minister Greg Hunt sitting at the cabinet* table musing over how they could encourage Australians to get vaccinated? “Pay them?,’’ suggests the PM. “ An ad campaign?” offers the Minister.

Just behind them though is the punchline to the cartoon. I drew a large green coronavirus character symbolic of the Melbourne Covid cluster. It is standing there, humbly* about to make a suggestion. “Maybe I can be of assistance”, it says.

Mark Knight's covid vaccine cartoon media_cameraMark Knight’s cartoon. Right click to open in new tab and view full size.

The cartoon is saying that it seems the only thing that could shake the public out of its hesitancy and complacency* over the vaccine was another wave of the coronavirus itself.

At least Covid is good for something!


  • virulent: very severe or deadly
  • complacent: happy with things how they are and unmotivated to act
  • recipients: people who receive something
  • cabinet: group of senior politicians who make big decisions
  • humbly: meekly and not suggesting your own importance
  • complacency: happiness with things how they are and unmotivated to act


Big thrill when coronavirus vaccine arrived

Jane’s V a little sign of victory for science

How does the coronavirus vaccine work?


  1. Who wrote this article?
  2. Who drew the cartoon?
  3. What are the names of the two people are in the cartoon?
  4. What did the Prime Minister say?
  5. What is the other character in the cartoon?


1. What Else Happens?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is part of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the other two cartoons that tell the story.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
‘To be a great cartoonist, being able to draw is only one of the skills that you need.’ Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job. Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design

Describe It
Look at the cartoon and make a list of 5 nouns that you see. Then describe those 5 nouns with 5 adjectives.

Be specific and add where those nouns using prepositions and another noun.

Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.

Extra Reading in health