1 July 2021, Geneva, Switzerland – UNITAR jointly with the International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders in York (CIFAL York, Canada), the International Social Marketing Association and AB InBev hosted a dialogue with 83 experts, officials, and representatives from the public and private sectors about lessons learned and challenges regarding COVID-19 vaccine deployment, as well as to present a new tool developed by UNITAR that offers practical examples of actions companies can make to contribute to help reduce the impact of this virus on the population by working collaboratively with local, national and international public health organizations - by leveraging their own assets.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires large-scale behavior changes not only to deal with the ongoing pandemic but to reduce its spread. In the field of pandemic management, effective communication interventions are essential, with the ultimate purpose of increasing awareness, improving understanding and the promoting the uptake of protective behaviors.
Supporting public health teams to design communication campaigns that promote protective behaviors such as accepting invitations to be vaccinated, altering current behaviors to reduce harm, while encouraging the maintenance of positive behaviors are very much needed and urgent.
Through Toolkit 2.0 Strategies for Companies - Designing and Implementing Campaigns in Support of Vaccination Efforts to Prevent and Reduce the Spread of Covid-19, UNITAR hopes to support public health teams and companies alike on the design and deployment of communication campaigns on how they can protect themselves, their families, and communities. This toolkit places special emphasis on the contributions companies can make to help reduce the spread of the virus by working collaboratively with local, national and public health organizations, while leveraging their own assets to support this major objective.
Dr. Fernando Ruiz Gómez, Minister of Health and Social Protection of Colombia shared Colombia’s experience with vaccination and communication processes:
“Colombia is probably the first country in the world to achieve the participation of private companies in the acquisition and application of vaccines for its own workers, with two and a half million vaccines already acquired and applied. So, for us the whole process of support and generation of public-private alliances is very important in matters such as communication, risk communication, and generation of communication campaigns, always with the objective of achieving a growth in vaccination uptake.”
During the presentation and dialogue, Dr. Deisi Kusztra, Member of the Board of Trustees of UNITAR, pointed out that companies have a range of assets that can enhance public health organizations’ activities in areas such as infection prevention, testing, treating and vaccine uptake:
“From supporting employees and the community, to supporting logistics, providing facilities, transportation services, assisting in communication and marketing efforts, companies are contributing greatly in the collective response to COVID-19.”
Ms. Catalina Garcia, Global Director of Corporate Affairs for AB InBev, stressed that together with local governments and partners, AB InBev has been using their existing operations and infrastructure to address immediate needs by developing, donating, and distributing essential resources needed to fight the pandemic and support the recovery phase. She added that:
“To list some of the actions executed, we produce nearly 3 million bottles of hand-sanitizers and disinfectants to hospitals and front-line health workers in more than 20 countries; provide water and medical supplies to front-line emergency workers around the world including the donation of 3 million facemasks in Brazil; contributing to the enhancement of health infrastructure in several cities with the construction of hospitals in several countries; supporting the supply of oxygen in Brazil and India as well.”
Mr. Alejandro Molina, Vice-President of Marketing for Cervecería Nacional Ecuador, Ms. Samira Fadul, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs for Bavaria, and Ms. Angela Zuluaga, Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability for CocaCola Latam, presented practical examples of how these companies are contributing to the battle against the pandemic through vaccination campaigns, public-private partnerships, and through life-saving services and medicines in countries in need.
Finally, moderator Dr. Jeff French, Member of the Advisory Committee of the Division for People of UNITAR, provided an overview of Toolkit 2.0, and opened the floor for a Q&A segment with participants and experts.