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Roberta Bondar, string of celebrities back campaign to battle vaccine hesitancy

Last Updated May 6, 2021 at 6:32 pm EDT


The campaign was created by a coalition of doctors and COVID-19 task forces that focus on ethnic communities

Among the famous and influential Canadians who got on board is neurologist and astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar

Celebrities have posted photos wearing the campaign’s signature T-shirt to reach out to their sizeable online followings

From actors and singers to Olympians and astronauts, a bevy of Canadian celebrities of all stripes are banding together to help battle vaccine hesitancy and encourage people to get their COVID-19 vaccines by joining a movement called ‘This Is Our Shot.’

The campaign was created by a coalition of doctors and COVID-19 task forces that focus on ethnic communities including the South Asian COVID Task Force, 19 to Zero, Latin American COVID Task Force, Black Physicians of Canada, Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, Siksika Health Services and Black North Initiative.

Launched on April 28 with a virtual town hall featuring doctors from around the country, the campaign has quickly seen a groundswell of support.

RELATED: ‘This is Our Shot’: Doctors team up to reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Canada

Celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Michael Buble, Clara Hugues, Hayley Wickenheiser and Chris Hadfield, among many others, have all posted photos wearing the campaign’s signature T-shirt to reach out to their sizeable online followings. People are encouraged to do the same when it is their turn to take the vaccine, so as to inspire their friends and family to get vaccinated too.

All proceeds from the T-shirt sales go to Kids Help Phone.

Actor Ryan Reynolds shows off his ‘This Is Our Shot’ T-shirt. TWITTER/@Vancityreynolds

How it began

Campaign chair Guri Pannu also worked on the ‘Conquer COVID’ campaign last year that helped procure and distribute PPE supplies to front-line workers.

He had already been working with the South Asian COVID Task Force, focusing on ways to help the hard hit community in Peel Region since November 2020 and honed in on vaccine hesitancy as a challenge to tackle early this year.

The seed for the ‘This is Our Shot’ campaign was sown when Pannu’s father went to receive his first shot of the vaccine in Peel wearing a T-shirt that said “Get your Teeka” — the Punjabi word for vaccine shot.

“What we noticed was a lot of people in the community that were older as well as some of the team that worked at the vaccination centre, they all stopped and asked ‘Where did you get that shirt? What does it mean?’,” explained Pannu. “What it demonstrated to me was maybe we have the opportunity to create ambassadors across the country.”

Pannu reached out to Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser who he had previously worked with on the ‘Conquer COVID’ campaign to help with his vision.

Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser shows off her ‘This Is Our Shot’ t-shirt. TWITTER/@wick_22


Together, they then spent around three weeks reaching out to their collective networks, working to bring as many people onboard as possible.

“What we wanted to do is leverage Olympians and [other] influencers to rally the country. [Canadians are] so good at rallying and getting together behind certain things. And so we wanted to create a similar effect with ‘This Is Our Shot’.”

Pannu says during that process he realized vaccine hesitancy was a cause many wanted to tackle and were willing to speak up about.

To reach out to as wide a demographic as possible, campaign T-shirts are available in 27 languages as are vaccine FAQs on their website. Pannu says people from other communities have been asking for translations in more languages as well.

In the coming weeks, they intend to hold other online events including a second virtual townhall on May 19.

Pannu hopes the campaign and their events will give people a sense of empowerment, control and most importantly, hope.

“So much of this year has been reactive. A lot of things we do are reactive. This is the one thing that you can do to take action. You have the power to now at least have some aspect of control over what you can do to protect yourself and protect your family and the community with respect to the pandemic,” he said.

Canada’s first female astronaut pledges her support

Among the famous and influential Canadians who got on board is neurologist Dr. Roberta Bondar, who made history as Canada’s first female astronaut in 1992.

The Order of Canada recipient says she was eager to back the campaign and spread the word.

“Certainly as a physician, I’m looking for any opportunity to give a positive message about vaccination. So when Hayley Wickenheiser asked me if I’d be interested in doing a promo piece for the ‘This Is Our Shot’ campaign, I said ‘when can I do it?'”

Dr. Bondar says a large part of fighting vaccine hesitancy is battling misinformation or badly communicated information and having popular and trusted faces in the campaign helps with making the message clearer.

“We use the credibility of these individuals. We could have anybody talking about it, but sometimes when there’s someone that people really respect because of other things that person has done, that message really is drilled home quite well,” she said.

Dr. Bondar also spoke to the importance of trusting scientists and local health authorities during a time when the science around COVID-19 is rapidly changing.

“We rely on science to be perfect, but science is (and I hate to use the word, it’s getting so overused) evolving. People are now seeing what scientists face during a whole career — how things move along and how we have to respond to them,” she explained.

“This is a historic moment. We’re all in this together and we’re all trying to sort all this out … so we really need to rely on our local health authorities who are going to give us the absolute crystal clear, latest [information], even if it changes one week to two weeks from now.”

In advocating for people to get vaccinated, Dr. Bondar pointed out that it will help keep people out of overcrowded ICUs, which in turn will benefit the larger community.

“When we talk about us having a vaccine to protect somebody else, sometimes people have a hard time with that concept, but it is about community,” she said.

However, seeing is believing she adds, so people may miss the link between the healthcare system and what might happen to them or a loved one and not directly connect how other people dying in a hospital ICU affects them personally.

“If they get into a car accident or if they have a heart attack or a stroke, if the ICUs are getting filled up with COVID [patients] there’s not going to be room for these other people that traditionally had those beds in the ICU,” she said.

“It will affect you — it will increase your risk of not doing well when you get to a hospital if the resources aren’t there.”

Dr. Bondar says she’s hoping her involvement in the campaign will both reassure and enthuse people to take their shot and in turn, encourage others to do the same.

“We all have to get together on this. And that really is what this campaign is about — it’s about cheering each other on and saying ‘be part of that team’,” she said. “Everybody’s got to say ‘We are part of the team. We are part of the answer. We want to be part of a solution. We don’t want to be a part of the problem’.”

Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield shows off his ‘This Is Our Shot’ t-shirt. TWITTER/@Cmdr_Hadfield