The city’s health authority is enlisting the help of Goliath, Batman and Wonder Woman to reach out to residents with limited English skills who are hesitant about vaccinations.
In what’s being billed as a unique outreach initiative, the Toronto health authority has activated the help of Goliath, Batman and Wonder Woman, among others, to encourage and educate young parents who are reluctant about vaccinating their children against the flu, whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus.
The stunt will see the “superheroes” appearing in ads where they chat with residents about ways they can help with vaccination – whether it’s showing up at a family’s home to answer their questions, signing up for immunization clinics or using social media to urge others to get their children vaccinated.
Arnon Shani, deputy chief executive officer of the Toronto public health authority, said he hopes the new ads will empower some residents to ensure their kids are vaccinated and that the initiative will help their communities stay safe and healthy.
“Because, if you look at the flu and diphtheria vaccine, each year that vaccine creates approximately one to two additional cases of protection,” Shani said. “And, to say to your community ‘We need to protect your babies from one, and one, and one,’ just doesn’t make sense.”
Since September, Toronto has had 166 diphtheria cases in Toronto Public Health clinics and public health units, along with 98 cases of whooping cough. Those numbers, however, have been on the rise in recent months, with 13 diphtheria cases so far in February, with cases of whooping cough averaging two per week.
In addition to the superhero ambassadors, members of the public were asked to sign up on the health authority’s website with suggestions on how to spread the word about vaccinations.
The superpowers are a response to awareness measures the health authority has been put on to get the word out. But, Shani said, he believes this is the first time the health authority has called on superpowers for public health outreach.
Dorothy DeGraaf, a speaker who has been involved in the superpowers outreach, said she is pleased to see the comic comics and other pop culture characters jumping on board.
DeGraaf said it’s very easy for the superpowers to help people make simple changes to their lives that are going to make a big difference. She thinks the characters, who speak in languages other than English, can help ensure that people who don’t speak English take part in the campaign.
“Children without a vaccination are at risk of having disease. They need to get the vaccines,” DeGraaf said. “So, we all need to come together and do this.”
The advertisements were designed by Vancouver-based agency Medium, and will run in Toronto media outlets from Thursday to 16 February.
Ariel Desai contributed to this article