Loretta Sbrocca, a Master of Education student, signed on to a project promoting confidence in vaccination against COVID-19 in hopes of making an impact.
“I lost a family member to COVID-19, so this is how I can put my skills and knowledge and education to use and prevent others from feeling that pain,” she says. “Joining the Students Sparking Vaccine Confidence project was my chance to protect my community and bring reliable information to the underrepresented groups.”
The project has brought together a multidisciplinary team of students from the University of Windsor and St. Clair College to address concerns among young people in Windsor-Essex about inoculation. The students have launched a social media campaign in the form of graphic representations of peer-to-peer conversations.
Two of the comic-style strips have been published, with the series projected to continue through January on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, using the hashtag #SPARKINGvaccineCONFIDENCE.
The strips are presented as common conversations and questions that students may have, with answers provided by other students.
“The main audience on social media is young people,” explains Jaclyn Ruta, a fourth-year biomedical sciences major who is earning course credit for her role in the project. “You’re more likely to respond to someone in your own demographic.”
She notes that the experience has sharpened her science communication skills while helping her better understand vaccine hesitancy.
Nellie Bordignon, a fourth-year student of health and biomedical science and president of the Science Society, says she is excited to see how the conversation series is received.
“Throughout the pandemic, I have worked in a nursing home that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak and have seen first-hand how the vaccine has helped to protect patients and health-care workers,” she says. “Our team is working to ensure there are enough resources available to help students make educated decisions, and ultimately promote vaccine confidence across our community.”
The student-led information campaign is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council as the “Students Igniting Vaccine Confidence Program in Windsor-Essex.”
Lead researcher Dora Cavallo-Medved, a biomedical sciences professor, is joined in the project by UWindsor kinesiology professor Sarah Woodruff and Monia Tighe, chair of the School of Health Sciences at St. Clair College, under the auspices of the WE-Spark Health Institute.
Dr. Cavallo-Medved says it will strengthen collaborations among the partner institutions.
“Tackling this together with students taking the lead is a much more effective way to make an impact on the community,” she says. “Bringing all our resources together will build awareness of the health capacity we have in Windsor.”