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Championing the vaccine cause in the Pacific

Although the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has commenced in most countries in the Western Pacific Region (WPR), vaccine uptake remains sub-optimal. Towards the end of 2021, multiple countries in the WPR requested ARIA to provide technical assistance to improve vaccine acceptance. 

ARIA members from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) recently visited Suva, Fiji, to champion this cause.

Using the Vaccine Champions Training Program, which aims to improve COVID-19 vaccination uptake in key priority groups, build confidence in vaccines and address misinformation through provision of technical expertise, ARIA members from the MCRI brought together community health workers, faith leaders, a village head man, public health students, the Fiji Red Cross Society, the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Fiji Rugby men’s and women’s sides and the Fiji Cricket women’s team.

The program, tailored to the Fijian context, focused on COVID-19 boosters for adults, COVID-19 vaccines for the 5–18 year age group and routine childhood vaccines.

The visiting team trained the newly anointed ‘Vaccine Champions’ to help them understand vaccination, how to advocate for vaccines, communicate with people who have questions, how to find up to date information and deliver vaccine information sessions to their communities. 

The Vaccine Champions Training Program has been co-designed by ARIA Deputy Chair Associate Processor Margie Danchin and ARIA members Dr Jessica Kaufman and Belle Overmars alongside local stakeholders.

The Vaccine Champions project is part of the ARIA-Regional Immunisation Support and Engagement (ARIA-RISE) program which aims to strengthen and expand immunisation to reduce the impact of vaccine preventable diseases in our region. 

The project team will continue to support the Vaccine Champions over the next 3 months as they deliver vaccine information sessions to their communities. The project will be extended to two other countries in the Pacific Region in the coming year.

Learn more about the Vaccine Champions project on the ARIA project hub page here.

Learn more about ARIA-RISE projects here.

Group of Vaccine Champions posing together after the training
Caption: Newly trained vaccine champions pictured here with the coordinating team from MCRI and ARIA (centre). Photo credit: Murdoch Children's Research Institute