COVID-19: Kiwi GP frustrated by 'resistant' parents releases comic book to convey benefits of vaccination

A rural GP tired of butting heads with parents over the benefits of vaccination has released a children's comic book to convey important information in a fun, non-threatening format.

Oxford-based general practitioner Dr Richard Clinghan hopes the educational comic, titled Jenny & the Eddies, will inform children and parents alike on the benefits of vaccination through an engaging and entertaining medium.

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, the Canterbury GP said it can be difficult to communicate the benefits of vaccination to resistant patients

"I've met a lot of parents that are quite [resistant] to vaccines and I've tried different ways of encouraging them to get their vaccinations," he said. 

"I thought maybe this could be a fresh approach - to create a comic book that was a fun, entertaining, non-threatening way to try and get the message out there about vaccine safety and the benefits of getting your kids vaccinated."

Instead of associating vaccination with needles, fear and uncertainty, Dr Clinghan said the comic attempts to "reimagine" the procedure by presenting it as the protagonist. 

"Instead of thinking of the vaccine as a small, clear vial of fluid - what if we reimagined what a vaccine might look like if it was based on its qualities."

In the book, Eddie, the main character, represents the MMR vaccine.

"He's brave, loyal, vigilant - he'll always protect us," Dr Clinghan said.

Conversely, the antagonists - the monsters that terrorise Jennie's village - represent measles, mumps and rubella. 

"They're silent, they stalk their victims, they cause indiscriminate suffering and unfortunately death in some cases."

Dr Clinghan, who was inspired to create the comic during the first lockdown last year, both wrote and illustrated the book. 

"I wanted to try a different way to get the message out there."

Jenny & the Eddies.
Jenny & the Eddies. Photo credit: Supplied

Recent research into New Zealand's attitude towards vaccination suggests stances have become more polarised over the last decade, with 60 percent of Kiwis identifying as "vaccine believers" and 30 percent as "vaccine sceptics".

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified "vaccine hesitancy" as one of the top ten threats to global health, along with non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease), resistance to antibiotics and HIV.

New Zealand is currently in the first stage of its vaccination campaign against COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Workers stationed at the border and in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, as well as their household contacts, are currently in the process of receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which requires two doses to generate immunity.

Healthcare workers at the frontline of the COVID-19 response and those living in high-risk settings are the next group to be immunised, followed by other priority populations who are at a higher risk if they contract the virus. The remainder of the population - those who are healthy and do not work or live in high-risk settings - will then be eligible to receive the vaccine, with broader public immunisations beginning in July.