My year as an Immunisation Advocacy Champion
This blog post was written by Rafiat Akinokun, a registered nurse from Nigeria and Immunisation Advocacy Champion.
Over the past year, I have engaged in impactful activities as an Immunisation Advocacy Champion with the Nursing Now Challenge and the Sabin Vaccine Institute. I have focused on reducing vaccine hesitancy within the indigenous community in Ilorin, Kwara state, Nigeria by utilising health education delivered in indigenous languages to clarify myths and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. I have also participated in, moderated, and joined panel discussions focused on improving vaccine access and equity. You can watch a short clip of the activities of the Immunisation Advocacy Champions here
In October, I had the unique and privileged opportunity to attend the 2022 World Innovation Summit for Health in Doha, Qatar. My activities at this Summit have created an enormous impact and memories that will not be forgotten.
On the first day of the summit, I was thrilled to see myself in a room of thousands of people! This made me realise the need to utilise my networking and interpersonal skills. I met Mpho Shelile and Mohammed Modber, fellow members of the Immunisation Advocacy Champions group as well as delegates of the conference, and other members of the Nursing Now Challenge and Sabin Vaccine Institute teams that I have worked with (virtually) over the past year. I think that the impact of physical interactions cannot be over-emphasized because it was such a joyful moment interacting, eating together, laughing, and even looking out for each other in a Summit gathering thousands of people.
I held meaningful interactions with decision-makers and stakeholders. I spoke with Mrs. Toyin Saraki, a prominent stakeholder in the field of Maternal, Infant, and Child Health in Nigeria. We discussed the challenges facing maternal health care delivery at the grassroots in Nigeria. I also shared many conversations with Professor Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Programme Director of the Nursing Now Challenge during which I talked about my activities as an Immunisation Advocacy Champion. It was wonderful to also meet Mr. Howard Catton, the ICN CEO who said “Oh I know you! I have seen your pictures around and I look forward to our panel discussion tomorrow.”
The highlight of my activities during the WISH Summit happened on the second day when I participated in a panel discussion with prominent global leaders including Jim Campbell (Director, Health workforce department, WHO), Howard Catton (CEO International Council of Nurses), Prof. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar (Minister of Health and Population, Egypt), and Dr. Hanan Abdul Rahim (Associate Professor and Dean of College of Health Sciences, Qatar University). In the panel discussion titled “Our Duty of Care: A Global Call to Action to Protect the Mental Health of Health and Care Workers”, I shared my personal experience of working as a frontline healthcare worker during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact that this has on my mental health. I also talked about how the non-prioritisation of the mental health of frontline healthcare workers, particularly nurses, has led to increased anxiety, depression, and the movement of many nurses out of the profession. One of the core aims of the Nursing Now Challenge is to encourage early-career nurses to increase their voices in advocacy. I am glad to have used my voice in such a prestigious way.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute has provided massive support for my activities as an Immunisation Advocacy Champion, including media training. The lessons from this training were used for my activities on the third day.
The third and final day of the conference saw us launch the new Nursing Now Challenge Global Solutions Initiative which calls for nurses and midwives to develop a plan to engage or advocate in their community/country/region to better support nurses, midwives, and other professionals working to boost and sustain vaccine acceptance and demand. Importantly, to further encourage the understanding of the Immunisation Advocacy Champions and our work we showed a video that showcased our activities. The video stirred a lot of positivity in the room and in fact, I was approached by the director of Nursing, Hammad Medical Corporation Qatar who expressed her pleasure towards the activities and the impact we have been able to achieve as Immunisation Advocacy Champions. Following the launch, I took part in an interview with a journalist from The Times, UK during which I talked about the impact of nurses’ emigration and brain drain on the Nigerian healthcare system and its population.
One of the most inspiring objectives of the Nursing Now Challenge is the drive to support early-career nurses and midwives to use their voices and to become leaders and advocates, driving change at the local, national and international levels. Over the past year, I have engaged in impactful activities as an Immunisation Advocacy Champion with the Nursing Now Challenge and the Sabin Vaccine Institute. These activities have built a confident, inspiring, young nurse leader and advocate from Nigeria!