From Football to Puppets: Boosting COVID-19 Vaccination

A CCP-led program in Bangladesh has developed creative ways to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake among its young people.
Monir Hosen Mintu, Shoma and their team perform a vaccination campaign song as they ride along with the river in rural Bangladesh. Photo: Breakthrough ACTION

Since COVID-19 emerged more than three years ago, countries all over the world have strived to prevent the spread of the virus and promote vaccination. Bangladesh is no exception. The government and various agencies have been working tirelessly – and certainly creatively – to make sure everyone is safe and protected.

But promoting COVID-19 vaccination is not easy. Some people remain hesitant or skeptical. Over the past year, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs-led Breakthrough ACTION project has developed unique entertainment-education approaches for COVID-19 prevention and vaccination promotion: a river boat, football matches, and puppet shows, to name a few.

Picture a boat cruising down the river, promoting COVID-19 vaccination in some of the remotest areas of Bangladesh, where transportation is limited. On the boat were musicians and storytellers as well as a floating billboard and stage to spread the word about vaccination to students, teachers, and parents via folk songs and educational shows. The goal was to increase vaccination rates, especially for kids ages five to 11, and help their caretakers learn where to get vaccines, which are often offered at school.

“I was walking by the river when I suddenly heard drums playing,” said 14-year-old Shapla. “As I looked towards the water, I was surprised to see a group of people singing folk songs about COVID-19 vaccines from a boat! I loved the show and learned that my nine-year-old sister could get vaccinated. I will be going to her school for registration soon.”

In another remote area where vaccination rates were also low, Breakthrough ACTION organized highly popular football matches for girls and road shows, taking advantage of excitement around the 2022 FIFA World Cup to amplify messages about vaccination.

The matches attracted huge crowds. Vehicles, decorated with educational banners, broadcast messages about the benefits and availability of COVID-19 vaccination to those gathered.

In yet another district, USAID-funded Breakthrough ACTION and Jolputul Puppet Studios teamed up to organize six puppet shows.

“The project designed these shows to appeal to students, their parents, teachers, and school management committees,” says CCP’s Faisal Mahmud, Breakthrough ACTION’s chief of party in Bangladesh. “Before the puppet shows began, the children sang their favorite songs and recited poems. The colorful and entertaining shows conveyed important information about COVID-19 vaccination in a fun and engaging way.”

Said Mita, age eight: “We sang so many songs. And when the puppet show kicked off, it was an absolute blast! We learned so much. Now, we are registering for COVID-19 vaccines.”

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