The Pan-American Health Organisation/UNICEF campaign, "Covid19 vaccines bring us closer. Choose to get vaccinated," tackles the issue of vaccine hesitancy in the Caribbean. The campaign consists of TV, radio, and social media components which are available on PAHO’s website.
PAHO information specialist Brenda Lashley said the campaign materials can be downloaded from the website and shared on social networks, including WhatsApp.
“The public service announcements, videos, and social media cards can be shared on all networks, TV, and radio. We have provided the scripts for the information so announcers, influencers, media houses, and others can record the information in their own voices and dialects. If people need any of the components resized for easier transmission, they can reach out to us.”
Speaking at the virtual launch on Friday, PAHO/WHO representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Dr Yitades Gebre said the covid19 pandemic had been joined by an infodemic, an overabundance of information, both good and bad, which could be harmful to health.
“Informed and educated communications are the bedrock of the arrival of vaccines, tests and treatments that would reduce the spread of covid19 and save lives. We must ensure access to trusted information, and that rumours and misinformation are fact-checked on a national level, as they can be as dangerous as covid19, and promote safe and successful communication. WHO has been monitoring global conversation on covid19 to detect early signs of growing interest in public engagement. Vaccine hesitancy is hampering the rollout of vaccines. The campaign, which is based on data, perceptions, and behaviour, will help to address vaccine misinformation and hesitancy and lead to greater vaccine uptake in the region. This is the only way we can move past this pandemic.”
UNICEF representative Dr Aloys Kamuragiye said vaccine hesitancy is still a huge issue among pockets of people in Caribbean countries and territories.
“We can only achieve herd immunity with 60 to 70 per cent of our populations vaccinated. We can never have too much information out there to persuade people about the vaccine. UNICEF is helping countries tailor campaigns to their population. I want to reiterate's UNICEF offer of technical and financial support on communications to increase vaccine uptake.”
Grenadian Health Minister Nicholas Steele said the Caribbean has had significant challenges since the beginning of the pandemic, but had overcome these by admitting the threats and shortfalls and tackling them head-on. He hoped vaccine hesitancy would be the last hurdle the Caribbean had to overcome in fighting covid19.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Health, Wellness and Environment Minister Molwyn Joseph said vaccine hesitancy and lack of understanding of public health measures pointed to a larger problem in the region – one of a lack of education. He said he hoped the campaign would result in a greater recognition that education of the population is as important as the medication.
PAHO Advisor Family and Community Health Dr Darlene Omeir said while the vaccination drive was relatively new in the Caribbean, overall the Caribbean countries have a relatively higher rate of doses applied per 100 people compared to the rest of the world.
“However, there is a need to scale up efforts to reach herd immunity coverage. There are challenges related to decreased public demand as well as lack of access to vaccines.”
Drs Lisa McClean Trotman and Lisa Bayley of UNICEF and PAHO respectively said the campaign was put together after a review of social media posts showed there were a lot of myths about the vaccines which was leading to vaccine hesitancy. They said PAHO and UNICEF recognised the pandemic had negatively impacted all sectors of society throughout the Caribbean. They said for UNICEF, children were some of the silent victims of covid19 due to the impact on their families, education, and social life, among others.
The campaign can be found at https://www.paho.org/en/campaigns/covid-19-vaccines-bring-us-closer-choose-get-vaccinated.