Trelawny, Jamaica, 27 October 2023 (PAHO/WHO) – Healthcare workers and community influencers from different regions of Jamaica gathered in Trelawny from October 23-27 for workshops to support increasing capacity pertaining to health risk communication and community engagement. These sessions, organized by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness, focused on teaching best practices in risk and crisis communication to enhance vaccine acceptance.
With support from the Caribbean Development Bank and the Government of Canada, the workshops aimed to enhance the understanding of healthcare workers and key community influencers regarding the obstacles to vaccine uptake. The sessions were tailored to strengthen their ability to craft health communication messages and discuss strategies for promoting vaccine acceptance. The community influencers also gained insights into organizing community events as part of their learning experience.
While delivering welcome remarks, PAHO/WHO Representative for Jamaica, Ian Stein, noted that the Americas, including the Caribbean subregion have long been proud of the early eradication of smallpox, and the elimination of polio and rubella. These triumphs, he explained, were testament to the collective efforts of governments, healthcare workers, communities and civil society organizations across the region.
He, nonetheless, warned that we should not let down our guard. “We cannot be complacent in our efforts to strengthen routine immunization programs throughout each country in the Americas. This will require investing in robust immunization systems that can reach every child, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status, addressing vaccine hesitancy through effective communication and engagement with communities and ensuring equitable access to vaccines for all, including marginalized and underserved populations,” Mr Stein said.
Dr. Patrice Lawrence-Williams, Advisor, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health dubbed the training as “a landmark day”.
“This training will empower you - our most treasured assets - to drive crucial initiatives in our communities… Vaccines are our shield, and you stand as the frontline defenders. Your participation here signifies more than just your dedication to our discussions; it embodies your unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of our beloved nation and the greater Caribbean region” she encouraged the healthcare workers.
Dr Lawrence-Williams also asked the participants to consider their influence and responsibility. “To us, you stand as pivotal figures in the community landscape. Just as iconic figures are integral to their cities, you, our distinguished influencers, can provide valuable guidance to your community. Your diverse backgrounds and the trust you've cultivated, make your roles indispensable, especially as we embark on this journey to promote the vital importance of vaccinations.”
Leveraging insights from recent training and qualitative research, PAHO will develop a public education campaign, refining messages proposed by healthcare professionals and community influencers.