All eyes are on the 24-team Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), a month-long soccer tournament bringing together the continent’s top national men’s teams, which kicked off in Cote d’Ivoire on Jan. 13. It will be hard to draw attention to anything but talk of the matches and players during this massive sporting event.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs is counting on that.
With a focus on all things soccer, CCP has created soccer-themed messages, featuring broadcasters, announcers and others, to highlight the need for COVID-19 vaccination, especially for those most vulnerable to severe disease, as well as routine vaccinations missed during pandemic-related shutdowns. The campaign, which will last throughout the tournament, is paid for by USAID, through the CCP-led Breakthrough ACTION project, and will be promoted in Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique and Cameroon.
The TV and radio spots aim to help fans (who are mostly male) understand how they can help themselves and their families get the vaccines they need to stay safe. The campaign dovetails with an initiative being led by UNICEF, WHO, Gavi and the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) Partnership reminding those who missed childhood vaccines that they should “catch up” on vaccinations after falling behind.
“AFCON will be the focus for the next month for a very large proportion of people in Africa, discussing who’s playing, who’s advancing, when are the games on,” says CCP’s Beth Mallalieu, the senior program officer leading the AFCON campaign.
“We want to capitalize on that attention to promote vaccination. The majority of football watchers are men, and the idea is that men are so passionate about football, but they don’t always use that same passion to advocate for their family’s health,” she says. “We want to celebrate those men who do and encourage other men to do the same.”
According to a 2023 UNICEF report, “12.7 million children in Africa missed out on one or more vaccinations over three years. In the world, a total of 67 million children missed out on vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, with vaccination coverage levels decreasing in 112 countries.”
The team has created a comprehensive digital campaign of posters in four different languages, 10 radio spots and 10 television commercials (in five languages, two spots per language). In each of the four countries, in-person community gatherings devoted to AFCON will take place and may include match watch parties and immunization clinics.
Other countries are welcome to use the campaign materials, which are available for download on the COVID Communications Network, managed by Breakthrough ACTION.