The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) launched an innovative regional online schools’ game show aimed at improving the public’s understanding, especially young people and their parents, about COVID-19 and vaccination processes.
The COVID-19 and Immunisation game show, entitled “Take Your Best Shot”, also promoted routine immunisation for better overall health and well-being. This unique pilot project, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development, Eastern and Southern Caribbean (USAID/ESC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Eastern Caribbean (UNICEF), saw students from eight secondary schools in two Caribbean states – Guyana and Saint Lucia, compete for grand prizes.
In its five-year strategic plan, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the ten global health threats the world faces in 2019 and beyond. Vaccine hesitancy has been defined by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) working group as the ‘‘delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite availability of vaccination services”.
Dr. Joy St. John, CARPHA Executive Director explained, “Historically, the Caribbean had one of the best immunisation records in the world. However, recent studies indicated that routine immunisations had been declining due to hesitancy caused by misinformation”.
Dr. St. John added that COVID-19 heavily exacerbated the situation, resulting in doubt on the efficacy of vaccines in general. In light of this, CARPHA, in partnership with USAID and UNICEF, created this innovative public education programme to share accurate, evidence-based information that would combat misinformation, address concerns, and improve understanding about vaccines, including the COVID19 vaccine.
Mervyn Farroe, Regional Representative, USAID/ESC noted that “Vaccines are in an elite group of inventions that have saved the most lives in human history. We owe it to future generations to ensure they are provided accurate information, so that in the event of another pandemic, they will not fall prey to inaccuracies about vaccines. USAID was happy to support this pilot project as we build on decades of global health leadership to combat infectious diseases”.
Pieter Bult, Representative, UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean pointed out, “Unfortunately, far too many children across the Eastern Caribbean and the world are not getting the vaccines they need to protect them against death and serious disease. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted childhood immunisation.
“I applaud initiatives like this that reinforce the importance of immunisation and allow us to begin reversing this troubling trend”.
Claudell Ally-Bristol, parent of a student at Mc. Kenzie High School, Guyana shared what she gained, “The number of variants stood out for me, also the number of children that have died and the reasons why we should be vaccinated”. Rojan Felicien, a student attending St. Mary’s College, St. Lucia expressed his change in attitude after participating in the programme. He said, “I used to think COVID was more of a joke; to me it was just a stronger version of the flu, but the webinar presentations helped to raise my awareness about the effects of COVID-19. This has strengthened my resolve to take vaccines that are developed in the future”.
Leanne Winter, teacher at St. Lucia’s St. Mary’s College, shared that her confidence in vaccines was also boosted, “I am more convinced that the vaccine does provide the means that we need to effectively combat the virus”.
Nitya Narine, a student at Tagore Memorial, Guyana was inspired and declared, “Now I have decided I want to pursue higher tertiary education in immunisation”.
The Ministries of Education and Health in both Guyana and Saint Lucia fully supported the project and worked closely with CARPHA in the coordination and broadcast of the programmes. Officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) also shared their expertise on immunisation with students and their parents.
In addition to the regional schools’ game show, a public service announcement, delivered in Spoken Word, was produced and distributed to CARPHA Member States, to promote immunization.
[To view the “Take Your Best Shot” game shows and find out who conquered the COVID-19 and Immunisation trivia, visit CARPHA’s YouTube channel, @CARPHACampus].