Vanuatu launches innovative communication tools to tackle misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines


‘Protektem yu, famili, komuniti mo fiuja blong Vanuatu’ is a familiar jingle resounding through households in Vanuatu on TV and radio as well as emphasised through the new COVID-19 vaccine communication products launched on 07 September.

The Vanuatu Ministry of Health, together with UNICEF and Wan Smolbag Theatre group and with funding support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), launched a comic book and videos on the COVID-19 vaccines during a meeting that brought together all provincial health teams.

Within three months since the vaccination drive began, Vanuatu has reached over 50 percent of the eligible population with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 18 per cent of the eligible population with two doses in the Shefa province. About 92 percent of healthcare workers in Shefa province have received the first vaccine dose and Sanma province has also recently launched the vaccination campaign on 25 August. However, with an urgent need to scale up the vaccination rollout to reach the remaining provinces, this communication campaign will assist in communicating with communities on the importance of vaccination.

Director General of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health, Russel Tamata, stated, “I am pleased to announce the launch of these tools to continue providing information to communities on the COVID-19 vaccine. Partnerships and products like these are important to dispel myths circulating in our communities and increase uptake of the vaccine.”

It is now more important than ever, as Vanuatu continues in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure up-to-date information is available to communities throughout the country. The newly launched tools will support community engagement activities to educate people on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Engaging with communities to explain the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines and why they should take the vaccine is vital,” stated UNICEF Pacific’s Chief of the Vanuatu Field Office, Eric Durpaire. “It’s important to listen to communities and respond to concerns and questions. These tools will be an additional resource that the provincial teams can use to engage with communities.”

Through the Vanuatu Ministry of Health and UNICEF partnership with Wan Smolbag Theatre, over 10,000 people so far were reached with key COVID-19 messaging on Efate and Santo Islands. Twenty-three workshops completed on Santo have also involved almost 800 key influential leaders.

“It was good to spend time in communities and answer questions about people’s fears and worries regarding the vaccine,” said the Community Facilitator at Wan Smolbag Theatre, Danny Marcel. “Often someone from the community would use the workshop to tell others to get vaccinated. Because we’d had the vaccine, it was easy to show that it doesn’t give you the mark of the beast! We could talk about side effects and say they do occasionally happen but it’s far safer to get the vaccine than COVID-19.”

The comic books and videos will be used by provincial teams to engage with communities on the COVID-19 vaccine prior to vaccine rollout in the remaining four provinces.

While information saves lives, even more important is two-way communication that leads to individuals and communities being empowered to act. Everyone must play their part to educate people on the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines and spread the message about ‘Protektem yu, famili, komuniti mo fiuja blong Vanuatu’.