TRENTON, NJ – Senator Kristin Corrado wrote to New Jersey’s health commissioner seeking financial details about the Department of Health’s holiday season advertising campaign featuring school-age children asking for COVID shots.
“In reality, these insensitive commercials were nothing more than political gamesmanship masquerading as public service announcements,” said Corrado (R-40). “State residents deserve to know how much they cost and how they were paid for. I am seeking transparency and justification for the expenditure.”
The TV commercials aired through the holiday season, often on cable networks catering to youngsters.
In the letter, Corrado referred to the short videos as “the lowest form of pandering,” and warned that the ads could have contributed to the angst and worry of children who have already suffered “well-documented psychological issues related to the pandemic.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Commissioner Persichilli:
I am writing to express my dismay over the recent push of Department of Health sponsored COVID vaccine commercials geared toward young audiences. One such commercial features children asking Santa for COVID shots. Many constituents have stopped me over the holidays and expressed their concerns.
When I first saw these ads, I was stunned. Targeting young kids with politically charged messaging on children-centric media outlets is quite simply the lowest form of pandering.
I am requesting a full accounting the of funds expended on COVID-19 vaccine commercials and advertisements including television and radio ads. I would like a detailed report on the total amount of funds expended and how much additional money is budgeted for future advertisements.
Where are we getting the money? Were state taxpayer dollars expended, or did we burn valuable federal funds on this gimmick? Were other services not provided as a result of this misdirection of funds?
Further, who was responsible for this decision? Was this made alone or with input from the administration? Was an outside consultant hired to film the commercials and write the script?
The commercials may well have created more anxiety and fear of the virus in a vulnerable segment of the population that has been victimized by well-documented psychological issues related to the pandemic. Perhaps a better use of these monies would go toward supporting children’s mental health services.
Additionally, as you are aware, residents of New Jersey were recently unable to obtain COVID tests. Why were funds expended on television and radio commercials and not prioritized for tests?
I look forward to your response.
Senator Kristen Corrado