The weird adventures of VacciBoy and ImmuGirl

The World Health Organization has a media campaign using cartoon super heroes to promote vaccination. In case you weren’t aware, this week was declared by WHO to be Vaccination Week.

So here they are, VacciBoy and ImmuGirl, gaining their superpowers by drinking liquids they discovered on the counter of a biomedical research lab.

Secondary message: “Hey kids, drink weird liquids you find in research labs and you’ll be a super hero!”

WHO says:

Welcome to the amazing world of VacciBoy and ImmuGirl. Through a series of episodes, you will learn about dangerous viruses, that are living around us and how to protect you and people you love against them. You will find entertaining and fun activities while you learn about many health threats. You will meet the viruses and how bad they are for our health and will discover how Vacciboy and Immugirl acquired their special powers to fight them.

Yes, but seriously kids: Don’t drink strange liquids in labs!

I watched a few of these videos and laughed out loud they are so bad. But sometimes being really bad can be pretty effective, by virtue of kitsch power or maybe something like reverse psychology. We’ll see.

Improving immunization rates around the world should be, and is, promoted as a top priority in global health. There may be no more effective single health intervention than a vaccine. Here are a few more straightforward reports and articles on this:

Reuters Two new vaccines introduced in Ghana

GAVI Millions of deaths averted, millions more to be saved

ONE Don’t ease up on global vaccination

But even if these WHO cartoons work (and I have my doubts), I wondered why try to sell immunization to kids? Are kids the ones deciding not to get themselves vaccinated? Are kids warning their parents against vaccines based on mistaken ideas? Are kids determining health policies? Are kids telling Congress to cut funding of foreign aid and these kind of global health measures?

As Einstein said, the first step to solving a problem is in properly defining it. Kids are not the problem here. VacciBoy and ImmuGirl mean well, but they would do better buzzing the halls of Congress and doing battle with irresponsible parents and policy makers.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.

  • It’s pathetic. How much money wasted in such a “campaign’? Unfortunately if you look at most of the campaigns initiated by WHO or other big institutions, most are very, very bad. Waste is never a problem for those institutions are they are never held accountable. Just try to extract from WHO financial justifications about a project? I did and got nowhere. There is 0 transparency and 0 accountability. Why? Just look at this stupid campaign: who is responsible? how did it happen? 

  • This campaign is poor. It seems to present the opposite of WHO’s intention.