New Wild to Mild Campaign Drives Key Message to Tame Flu and Reset Expectations

September 22, 2023—This fall CDC launched a new flu vaccine campaign called Wild to Mild to share key information with the public about how getting a flu vaccine can reduce your risk of flu and its potentially serious outcomes. The campaign focuses on encouraging flu vaccination among higher risk groups, especially pregnant people and children, given drops in vaccination uptake in those groups since the COVID-19 pandemic.

While seasonal flu activity is low across most of the United States, September marks the beginning of the optimal window for most people to get their annual flu vaccine.

The Wild to Mild campaign is based on consumer research showing that many people believe flu vaccination doesn’t work because of first or second-hand experience where vaccination may not have prevented illness. Flu vaccine varies in how well it works. For many years, CDC measured vaccine effectiveness according to how well it prevented illness that required medical treatment. In recent years, however, CDC has expanded its vaccine effectiveness work to include looking at how well flu vaccine works at preventing serious outcomes, like emergency department visits and hospitalizations. This work has contributed to a strong and growing body of evidence that flu vaccination reduces the risk of serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. The Wild to Mild campaign visually shows how flu vaccination can tame flu illness from wild to mild by showing a wild animal, like a tiger, juxtaposed against a more domesticated animal or toy like a kitten. Other examples include a bear with a teddy bear and a shark with a goldfish.

The intent of the Wild to Mild campaign is to reset public expectations around what a flu vaccine can do in the event that it does not entirely prevent illness. Participants found this information useful and even motivational in consumer testing. For pregnant people, the information about how vaccination during pregnancy could not only protect the pregnant person but also their baby for several months after birth was particularly persuasive.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot. September and October are the best times for most people to get their annual flu vaccine.

This season’s Wild to Mild campaign is part of an annual educational effort to encourage vaccination among Americans, including among people who are at higher risk of serious flu complications. A separate campaign, “Get My Flu Shot,” which is a collaboration between the CDC, American Medical Association, and the Ad Council, focuses on trying to reduce long-standing disparities in flu vaccine coverage among Black and Hispanic Americans.

The Wild to Mild campaign is mainly digital and will include social media content, micro-influencer partnerships, and paid placement of educational ads in various online channels and radio spots. Promotional graphics encouraging social media interaction with friends and loved ones also are available.

In recent weeks, influenza A(H1N1) and influenza B viruses have been detected at low levels in the United States, with most of these viruses being similar to the viruses that spread most commonly in the Southern Hemisphere during its flu season. Data from several South American countries showed flu vaccination during their season reduced flu hospitalizations against the predominant flu viruses, influenza A(H1N1), by 55% and against influenza B viruses by 46%.

Last flu season started early in the United States, with activity increasing nationally at the beginning of October 2022 and peaking in early December 2022.

CDC expects multiple viruses to spread this fall and winter, including flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Respiratory diseases can be very serious, especially among people at higher risk of developing serious complications, and CDC urges everyone to get up to date on their recommended vaccines.

You can use to find a flu vaccine near you.