National Hub: Helping parents and providers immunize children with confidence

 When Children’s Healthcare Canada approached SKIP to be a partner on their Immunizing Children with Confidence campaign, it was a resounding ‘yes!’ This national campaign, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, was developed to help parents and health professionals cut through mis and disinformation and provide accessible, credible resources and evidence to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among school-aged children. A perfect fit for SKIP’s network.

As Canada prepared its roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination for school-age children, many Canadian parents were sifting through mis and disinformation about the science and safety of vaccines. Health professionals, already at capacity, were overwhelmed by information and new requirements to help their young patients. Pharmacists, asked to offer vaccinations to children for the first time ever, were searching for evidence-based best practices and supports. The Public Health Agency of Canada looked to national healthcare organizations to help get information, tools and resources out to these groups quickly and effectively – and SKIP was keen to play a strategic role.

In April 2021, Children’s Healthcare Canada launched Immunizing Children with Confidence, an evidence-based information and awareness building campaign and identified SKIP as a valuable partner in this initiative. Funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Immunization Partnership Fund, Immunizing Children with Confidence increased the confidence of vaccine providers, vaccine communicators and families by developing and sharing tailored resources, co-developed with health professionals and family partners on campaign advisory committee. Many SKIP network partners took part in the committee to help drive the campaign, including SKIP Knowledge Broker at the Children’s Healthcare Canada Hub, Paula Robeson, SKIP Hub Co-Lead at CHU Sainte-Justine, Dr. Evelyne Trottier, SKIP Associate Scientific Director, Dr. Katie Birnie, and SKIP Knowledge User Director, Emily Gruenwoldt.

“Early on in the pandemic, public health communications primarily focused on Canada's adult population, leaving parents and providers scrambling for evidence-based information about vaccinations for children,” says Emily Gruenwoldt, who is also the President and CEO, Children’s Healthcare Canada and Executive Director, Pediatric Chairs of Canada. “Between Children’s Healthcare Canada and SKIP, we have a vast network and significant expertise in knowledge mobilization. We were perfectly positioned to get tools and resources into the hands of parents, vaccine providers and vaccine communicators.”

The Immunizing Children with Confidence tools and resources were extensive and received high levels or engagement. This campaign included a series of webinars and a virtual pop-up conference that had nearly 4,000 viewers. An online Resource Hub for vaccine providers and communicators had nearly 10,000 visits. And a special video series in which children ask questions to Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, has been viewed more than 78,500 times.

In collaboration with other funded partners, SKIP and Children’s Healthcare Canada were even able to designate January 27th, 2022 as National Kids and Vaccines Day, a high-profile opportunity to educate the public and invite questions about kids and vaccines.

“It started when we realized that both Children’s Healthcare Canada and Science Up First were planning events on the same day,” said SKIP Knowledge Broker, Paula Robeson. “Through SKIP’s network, we further amplified and contributed to the online campaign and came together to create a large-scale public event for Canadian parents and providers. The attention it gained was unbelievable.”

Countless leaders, media outlets and influencers across Canada amplified National Kids and Vaccines Day, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who promoted the National Kids and Vaccines Day on his personal Twitter account. The #KidsandVaccinesDay hashtag saw upwards of 37 million impressions and more than 5,000 original tweets. The designated day also featured a free, nation-wide online Town Hall event, with more than 11,000 attendees from Canada and beyond.

“Parents were facing important decisions and were surrounded by a lot of information, not all of it based in science,” continued Paula. “With this event and with all of our Immunizing Children with Confidence work, it was vital that we respected those decisions, met parents where they were and listened to their concerns.”

Early on, vaccine pain and needle fear were identified as a key barrier to vaccination by the Immunizing Children with Confidence Advisory Committee, and SKIP homed in on this issue. Our viral #ItDoesntHaveToHurt hashtag continued to raise awareness with an average of 7 million monthly views. A special partnership between SKIP and reached more than 400,000 people, with more than 37,000 people tuning in for a Facebook Live event in which parents could ask questions to health professionals. And we engaged with regional and international news outlets to mobilize evidence based knowledge and solutions to help make children’s vaccinations go as smoothly as possible. Members of the SKIP network were interviewed by media heavyweights including CBC News, Global News, Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others. The Globe and Mail columnist, André Picard, wrote of SKIP’s efforts: “We finally started taking needle pain and the fear of needles (trypanophobia) seriously thanks to online initiatives such as #ItDoesn’tHaveToHurt, a social-media campaign to reduce vaccine pain and fear in kids that has gone viral”.

Deb Balino, a mother of two who participated in the Facebook Live event, has been using SKIP’s strategies to address needle pain and fear for years. She explains that it has dramatically changed how her family engages with healthcare. “After years of struggle with my daughter’s severe needle phobia, I have often dreaded flu season. Even a conversation around vaccinations for my child gave me so much anxiety. But after implementing all the strategies and suggestions from SKIP, my child is now comfortable with receiving her vaccines, and it is no longer an issue for our family to keep safe and healthy in this way! Thank you SKIP!”

Experiences like the one shared by Deb get to the heart of SKIP’s purpose. “We do this to help improve the experience for kids, and it’s both humbling and motivating to see the positive impacts of our efforts,” said Emily. “When we work together to mobilize evidence-based solutions, we can give rise to healthier Canadians through better pain management for children. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do, with support from our many partners.”