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BSI celebrates vaccine research

The BSI has recently focused our external affairs work on advocating the importance of vaccination and vaccine research. To celebrate the successes of vaccine research we held a virtual mass public engagement day on Thursday 26 March. Here, our Public Engagement Officer, Erika Aquino, tells us how it went.

Celebrate Vaccines is the BSI's campaign to champion the critical role of vaccination and vaccine research in saving lives and advancing global health. The aim of the initiative is to strengthen public understanding of the importance of vaccination and help everyone make informed decisions about vaccinations and their children’s health.

Earlier this year, the BSI joined forces with several partners to carry out vaccine advocacy in the run-up to the next Gavi Replenishment Conference on 4 June, hosted by the UK Government. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aims to help low-income countries protect children from preventable infectious diseases through supporting routine immunisation programmes.

The Replenishment Conference gathers world leaders as they announce their country’s contribution to Gavi’s next strategic cycle, which aims to raise $7.4 billion to immunise 300 million children and save more than 7 million lives. The BSI represents the voice of researchers who work on vaccines in our policy, media and public engagement work and we are proud to join this collaboration. We aimed to showcase the benefits of vaccine research in advancing global public health as well as increasing overall uptake rates of childhood vaccinations in the UK.

Engaging the public

A large element of the Celebrate Vaccines campaign was a mass public engagement day on Thursday 26 March 2020. This was an opportunity for BSI members to inspire the public directly and share their passion for vaccine immunology research successes. We funded 18 public engagement events run by members across the country, from Edinburgh to Brighton, in settings including schools, hospitals and shopping centres.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19, we had to postpone the face-to-face events planned but will reschedule them for later in the year in accordance with official advice. We would like to sincerely thank all those members who volunteered to run events.

#CelebrateVaccines success

Not discouraged by the postponement of face-to-face events we turned to social media and focused our efforts on running a virtual public engagement campaign. We called on BSI members to join us in raising the expert voice of the immunology community loud and proud in support of vaccination, and we were not disappointed.

On Thursday 26 March 2020 we held a mass online public engagement day to spearhead the vaccination conversation across digital platforms. We took to social media for a day of vaccine advocacy, education and celebration.

In the weeks before our celebrations, the crucial role that vaccines play in protecting our health and keeping our world safe came into sharp focus with emergence of a new Coronavirus. Through appreciating the power of vaccines in saving lives, our Celebrate Vaccines campaign engaged and informed the narrative about how vaccines work and why they are important for improving global public health.

As well as reaching out to BSI members and the wider immunology community, we asked organisations and individuals working in the sector to get involved on social media to like, share, post and tweet important vaccine messaging. We produced a social media toolkit with a range of different graphics and assets to facilitate engagement with the campaign.

This was the first time that the BSI has attempted a large-scale social media campaign and it was an enormous success. The Celebrate Vaccines campaign trended on Twitter with over 1,800 posts using #CelebrateVaccines and we saw a surge of followers. On LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram we also received extremely positive engagement.

It wouldn’t have been possible without our incredible members raising a collective voice and significantly amplifying the message about the importance of vaccines in saving lives. We’re immensely grateful to all those who contributed – you were all fantastic! We hope you felt huge pride in our immunology community, as we certainly did.

If you missed the social media activity on the day, we’ve collected some highlights on the website. Check out the informative articles, engaging infographics, educational animations and supportive posts.

Public engagement resources

For the Celebrate Vaccines launch, we created a brand new section on the BSI website to host the campaign with lots to explore and discover.

A range of digital educational and engaging resources can be found on the website for all to use and share. The resources aim to increase public knowledge about vaccines and enable researchers and doctors to speak up about the importance of vaccinations.

We developed three short animations covering different aspects of vaccinations – the global impact of vaccines, how vaccines work and how they are made. These are an easy-to-understand resource for sharing widely to support teaching and engagement in a fun and visual way. They can be found on the website and the BSI YouTube channel.

We updated our popular BSI ‘A guide to childhood vaccinations’ and uploaded it online so it’s easier to access and navigate. The guide explains how vaccines work and how they effectively protect us from diseases, and provides updated information on the current vaccination schedule for children in the UK.

We designed new infographics based on information and graphics from the guide. Topics covered are ‘How do vaccines work?’, ‘What is herd immunity?’ and ‘How effective is vaccination?’. These can be downloaded from the website for free, for use online and in print to explain vaccine concepts and to enhance face-to-face public engagement events.

In addition, we created a ‘vaccines public engagement kit’ aimed at families and school-aged children. The kit has been developed to facilitate public engagement about vaccines and contains a range of materials and resources needed to deliver interactive, hands-on activities and classroom workshops. The kit contains fifteen new resources with facilitator how-to guides and instructions, including lists of materials needed, although most items people may already have at home.

If only a few people are vaccinated and one person is infected, a disease spreads very fast. But if a lot of people are vaccinated, then the disease can't spread very far and the whole community stays safe. This is herd immunity.

The activity packs are free for the public to access and try their hand at exploring how the immune system fights viruses and bacteria, how vaccines take advantage of those natural functions, the concept of immunological memory and the importance of herd immunity. You’ll also see these activities in action at future Celebrate Vaccines events and you are welcome to use them at your own public engagement events.

We highly encourage members to explore the new website and resources and share their adventures with others and us on social media, remembering to tag @britsocimm, so we can see how you’ve been celebrating vaccines. We will continue our Celebrate Vaccines campaign throughout the year during important touchpoints. For World Immunisation Week 2020 we championed the critical role of vaccination and vaccine research in advancing global health. We showcased our new Celebrate Vaccines activities and resources and continued posting on social media to promote the campaign, encouraging others to join our movement.

Erika Aquino
BSI Public Engagement Officer

Find out more

Visit our website
Explore our social media toolkit
Watch our animations on our YouTube channel
Join the conversation online with #CelebrateVaccines