Vaccines are unquestionably a powerful and cost effective prevention measure that helps prevent disease. Millions of lives are saved through vaccination each year. However, last year almost ~20 million children were not vaccinated worldwide due to either a combination of conflict, lack of access or complacency, just for measles. Pakistani population is currently bearing a substantial disease burden that can be reduced through proper vaccination.
Recently, IDRACK took the opportunity to highlight the importance of vaccination in its community outreach program, on the 14th of November, 2019, held at Islamabad Model School for Girls, G6/1-3, Islamabad, Pakistan. It was aimed at giving exposure to students in a public school on immunity, and disease prevention through hygiene and timely vaccination.
Expanding the knowledge about vaccination at all ages is one of the most powerful steps towards breaking the curse of disease outbreaks. Nonetheless, there is misinformation and distrust among individuals concerning vaccination that fuels their refusal to immunize. There is an absence of confidence and communication which undermines the collective attempts to vaccinate every child in a target community.
Children are the most vulnerable age group, to diseases, in a community. It’s crucial to involve them in taking preventive measures against diseases. Over and above, any idea that is shared with the children goes well beyond themselves. In our adult-run world we really need to involve young minds, that are progressive and welcoming to new ideas and eager to implement them, in order to impact the society. Through personal experience I have observed that kids are quite good learners. They are ready to contribute their ideas and energies in pursuing a common goal. Yet it is quite unfortunate that such kids are not given exposure. They are not prepared to tackle real life challenges.
Around 90 students from 8th, 9th and 10th grade attended the outreach session. They appeared excited to listen to ideas outside their textbooks. Class teachers were also present in the session. The vice principal of the school, Miss Zahra Shah was welcoming of the initiative. The computer lab acted as the v
enue. The event was planned as an interactive session so it could be differentiated from regular school lessons. Furthermore, the content delivery was planned so it could cut through the jargon and deliver the key messages. To this end, parallels between the human body and its immune system and a kingdom and its army were drawn. The children related well to these parallels, asking questions like “How would I know the army in my body is stronger now” to which “You will not get sick” was given as an answer. The students were asked simple questions to highlight to them the gaps in their understanding and to make them aware that it is important to think critically. A question from the student that “if vaccines are the solution to diseases than why people die of cancer” illustrated that the audience connected with the content delivered. Printed slides were handed out to the students during the session.
The students readily agreed to spread the word to their friends, family and neighbors. One on one sessions after the event was conducted with some of the students. Their curiosity about the presenter’s profession gave a chance to give exposure to students about the career choices they had. The vice principal remarked in the end that “I was initially hesitant to allow you to have this session, but I am glad that I made the right decision”.
Weaknesses in the system were observed as one of the staff members showed suspicion in the beginning that the activity was either a commercial event or an agenda to brainwash children. However, after the session completed and the nature of the content delivered became clear, their suspicions were allayed. In a later interaction with the vice principal and one of the staff members Miss Sajida, it was found out that the event had a positive impact and the school administration would be willing to allow future events of a similar nature.
Efforts to promote awareness about vaccination are not new, however, most have not penetrated classrooms in schools. At IDRACK, it is our belief that such attempts will surely make a positive impact in strengthening our communities and making them safer.
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About the presenter
Maria Shah, a student at COMSATS Islamabad, volunteered her time with IDRACK to reach out to school students and raise awareness surrounding vaccination in Pakistan. Discussions included understanding how the immune system works and how it needs help from time to time, to fight various diseases.
About the content
Slides used in this outreach program are available for download below. Feel free to reuse them, in a school or event near you.
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Download Slides here. Vaccines.pdf (1 download)