"...thanks to the [communication] campaign, barriers to vaccination have decreased significantly in comparison with 2014 before the outbreak happened."
This video from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) explores the response on the part of partners in the global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to a polio outbreak that occurred in September 2015, when 2 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) were confirmed in the Zakarpatiya oblast of Western Ukraine. The outbreak came as no surprise due to inadequate vaccination coverage in the country, putting its population at high risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases for years. UNICEF and partners immediately responded to the outbreak following the standard operating procedures (SOPs). Three national polio vaccination rounds were planned and implemented: More than 12 million doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) and 1.5 million doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) were immediately made available, and 3 million children were vaccinated more than one time.
As the video details, the response started with the establishment of a communication task force to ensure proper planning, implementation, and coordination of a communication strategy. Organisers created a polio slogan with a distinct look and strong call for action. Ninety-five percent of Ukrainians were reached through a carefully selected media mix concentrating on areas with low coverage and tackling negative rumours and doubts about the quality of the vaccine. Media activities included radio advertising using various techniques such as animation and testimonials; they aired on national and regional channels. Outdoor billboards and city lights were strategically placed in low immunisation areas, and innovative approaches included transit advertising in subways/railway stations and mall activations and roadshows to reach the unreached. Major supermarket chains made extensive use of web and social media and also created print materials including posters leaflets for parents and colouring books for kids. Doctors played a major role in media events, and frequent media interviews were organised in high-profile media on national and regional levels to ensure that parents' fears and concerns were addressed. Furthermore, over 6,000 health workers and educators were trained on effective counseling on polio.
According to independent monitoring of the polio outbreak vaccination, coverage and awareness were growing each round nationally and in low-performing regions. It was felt that this progressively increasing coverage is a reflection of parents' increasing confidence in the vaccine and understanding the importance of protecting their children from disease to maintain a polio-free status. UNICEF stresses that strengthening routine immunisations should continue, with the aim of reaching every child and sustaining the gains of the campaign described in this video. It is important to maintain the level of support to immunisation among parents, which reached 74% in 2016 in comparison to 28% in 2008 due to the comprehensive behaviour change interventions. The idea is that each and every child has the right to be protected against polio and other infectious diseases.
Emails from Ellyn Ogden and Anna Sukhodolska to The Communication Initiative on January 27 2017 and February 10 2017, respectively.