Online immunization champions to raise community immunity

AN innovative provincial online platform launched Wednesday, I Boost Immunity, which will allow British Columbians to share information about the benefits of immunization using social media.

I Boost Immunity is sponsored by the Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) and was inspired by a concern that misinformation and complacency has resulted in some parents choosing to skip certain vaccines or avoid immunizations all together. The program builds on lessons learned from previous approaches to immunization education by acknowledging the silent majority of people that do vaccinate their children.

“I Boost Immunity is based on the idea that giving people a place to celebrate their choice to vaccinate themselves or their kids is long overdue,” says Michael Barnes, Executive Director of the Public Health Association of BC. “I Boost Immunity does that by crowdsourcing everyday British Columbians to provide a real life perspective of how important vaccines are in protecting us, not just as individuals, but as a community as a whole.”

For many, the term ‘immunization booster’ means the extra dose of vaccine given to ‘boost’ protection against disease. “We think of the term a little bit a differently with regards to this program,” continues Barnes. “An immunization booster is a person who seeks to raise ‘community immunity’ by using social media to share the benefits of immunization in exchange for points, badges and rewards.”

Anyone can easily sign up to become an immunization booster by visiting www.IBoostImmunity.ca. Boosters can share articles and stories through Facebook, Twitter and email. The platform includes a ‘Tell us your story’ application, which encourages people to share why they support immunization and ‘Booster U’, a short training course designed to help prepare new boosters to become confident and successful immunization champions.

I Boost Immunity Boosters are awarded points for each activity they perform. As points are accumulated, they are recognized with online achievement badges, and are also able to redeem their points for I Boost Immunity themed rewards.

At its core, the program is based on the belief that educating others using stories combined with scientific facts can have a real and lasting impact among friends, families and co-workers. Ultimately, the goal of I Boost Immunity is to raise awareness and action in areas that have lower than optimal immunization rates in British Columbia. I Boost Immunity is operated by the Public Health Association of BC in consultation with the provincial Immunization Promotions Working Group who share a common goal: to improve the health of British Columbians by continuing to reduce the number of infections by vaccine-preventable diseases, along with the illness, disability and death that they cause. We achieve this goal by providing solid, evidence-based information on immunization to individuals and health and immunization providers, along with tools to make it easier for BC families to get immunized.

Funding for I Boost Immunity has been provided by the Ministry of Health through the Public Health Association of BC.