Losing fear of COVID-19 vaccination through assertive communication
UNICEF Ecuador, together with PAHO/WHO, the World Bank and other organizations, supported the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health in the implementation of its National Communication Plan for Vaccination against COVID-19.
Vaccines save lives and so does communication that is assertive, transparent and to which people can relate. UNICEF, in coordination with PAHO/WHO, the World Bank and other organizations, supported the Ministry of Public Health (MSP), implementing, the National Communication Plan for Vaccination against COVID-19 and the Communication Plan for Indigenous, Afro-descendant and Montubio Peoples and Nationalities.
"The communication behind the vaccination plan in Ecuador has focused on providing timely and transparent information so that the population trusts the COVID-19 vaccine. Spaces for dialogue have been opened to promote social participation, exchange of knowledge and listening to communities, one of the most important components to resolve concerns and minimize rumors that have arisen around the vaccination," says Martha Rodriguez, consultant in Development Communication at UNICEF.
Although currently Ecuador and the whole world are facing a progressive increase of COVID-19 cases, as a consequence of the spread of the Omicron variant, the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent people from becoming seriously ill after infection is also evident.
By the end of January 2022, the vaccination process in Ecuador had already reached 82% of the Ecuadorian population with a second dose, according to the COVID-19 Vaccinometer tool of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Public Health of (MSP).
"The message that has reached us through the radio is to lose the fear of vaccination against COVID-19, to see [the vaccine] as a strengthening of our defenses. We have our ancestral medicine that we continue to use, but the vaccine protects us even more," says Katy Huatatoca, from the community of Unión Base in Pastaza province. Katy has changed her perception of vaccines thanks to the information that she has received through community radio.
Communication with an intercultural approach
The inter-institutional roundtable for health promotion and risk communication for COVID-19 vaccination in peoples and nationalities of Ecuador has brought together leaders of indigenous peoples, governmental institutions and international agencies and organizations. From this space, communication actions have been coordinated to foster acceptance of the vaccine, including: training 20 journalists from the community radio network, setting up Dialogues of Knowledge to strengthen leadership, promoting spokespersons for interpersonal and community communication, and preparing and disseminating messages with an intercultural approach in the different languages of the peoples and nationalities of Ecuador.
These activities have addressed key aspects related to the COVID-19 vaccine, the new variants and the importance of continuing preventive measures, as well as the identification of rumors and misinformation.
As a result of these workshops, four radio spots were produced in Spanish, Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Amazonian Kichwa and culturally adapted to Afro-descendant and Montubio peoples, and have been broadcast to 120,000 people in Ecuador.
"Thanks to the support of UNICEF and PAHO/WHO, who have supported us in creating communicational products, we have reached out more closely to communities with specific messages to inform people about the pandemic," says Bryan Garcés, broadcaster at Radio la Voz of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, who adds that, "our people have their traditional medicine but we also promote fusion with Western medicine, that is to say vaccination against COVID-19, to better confront this health emergency".