Some of the island’s popular social media influencers have joined forces with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to support its Expanded Programme on Immunisation, in an effort to increase the uptake of routine childhood immunisations.
Popular names, including, Gospel Artiste, John Yarde, Teacher/Educator, Stephanie Chase, and entertainers Mahalia Cummins, Natalie Burke and Nikita Herbert, who have large social media followings, are among those who will be reinforcing the importance of childhood immunisations.
The campaign is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its implementing partner, Task Force for Global Health, the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.
“Our goal is to reach and sensitise the population to the benefits of routine immunisations and return vaccination rates to pre-pandemic levels of 95 per cent or higher. We want to re-emphasise the benefits of vaccines to all Barbadians throughout their life cycle. Hence, we are hoping that the launch of these videos will help us to rebuild trust and confidence in our childhood immunisation programme, which has been subjected to misinformation,” stated Public Health Consultant with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Arlene Husbands.
Acting Chief Public Health Nurse, Larone Hyland, said the campaign was timely because Barbados needed to restore its childhood vaccination rates back to the previous level of 95 per cent. At its lowest, the rate had fallen as low as 80 per cent, which she said was in the “danger zone”.
She further added that vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles and polio, were just “a plane ride away”, with these diseases resurging in some of Barbados’ tourism source markets. The Acting Chief Public Health Nurse also noted that the campaign had a good mix of influencers and lauded it for getting the right message across.
“We look forward to restoring our rates to the 95 per cent. They are coming back up slowly. We are hovering somewhere around high 80s to 90s now but we want to get back to that 95 per cent or more. In some cases, we had 100 per cent so we are hoping we will get our vaccination rates restored and this campaign is one of the tools that can help us.
“This is the information age, but it is also the misinformation age as well because it is just as easy to spread misinformation as it is relevant information. With social media, you don’t have to prove anything to get out there and influence persons, so we, on the scientific side, have to be willing to step up to the plate and put information out there that is relevant so that persons have a menu of choices,” Mrs. Hyland underscored.
She said the campaign will target young parents, many of whom would have benefitted from routine childhood vaccines but who would not have seen the devastating effects of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“There is a possibility that these diseases can re-establish themselves. Some people think that they are gone and they can’t come back, but they can come back in a very serious way that would have a very negative effect on our children. We join in this campaign to keep our children safe,” she stated.
The campaign will be accompanied by the tagline Restoring Confidence in Choices that Make a Difference…#GetuptoDate.