Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions and support from Bloomberg Philanthropies has launched a new free online course, “COVID Vaccine Ambassador Training: How to Talk to Parents.” The two-hour online class aims to train a cohort of “vaccine ambassadors”—including parents of school-age children, teachers, and school staff—to discuss concerns parents and guardians of school-age children might have about COVID-19 vaccines. The goal is to encourage parents to make evidence-based decisions about vaccinating their children.
The new course is available on Coursera.org and is the latest offering from the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Training Initiative. The Initiative, which launched in May 2020 with a contact tracing course that has had more than 1.3 million enrollments, offers expertise and practical guidance from Johns Hopkins and other experts to help address the pandemic response.
The goal of the course is to empower more people to communicate with parents in the U.S. who have concerns about vaccinating their children, despite the availability of safe, effective, and free COVID-19 vaccines for children ages five and up. In recent weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations in children have spiked to record levels, including among unvaccinated children ages 5 and up who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 672 children age 17 and under were admitted to hospitals every day with COVID-19 during the week ending Sunday, January 2—the highest such number of the pandemic. These numbers underscore the urgency to get eligible children across the country vaccinated and boosted now.
At the same time, teachers, school administrators and staff, PTAs, and parents have expressed interest in learning how to effectively communicate and engage in conversations about vaccine hesitancy with members of their community. This course is designed to teach adults how to have respectful and empathetic conversations with parents and guardians who remain hesitant about vaccination for their children, even if they are vaccinated themselves.
“Having conversations about COVID-19 vaccinations, can, at times, feel uncomfortable, especially if parents don’t see eye to eye or the conversation turns political, but we need to have this kind of dialogue with one another if we’re going to move forward in this pandemic and begin to address vaccine hesitancy,” said Rupali Limaye, PhD, MPH, director of Behavioral and Implementation Science at the Bloomberg School’s International Vaccine Access Center. “While these vaccines work, unless children and their parents feel confident pursuing them, we’ll continue to see COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and death rates go up.”
The COVID-19 Vaccine Ambassador course covers evidence-based communication strategies, with video explainers and FAQs about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, as well as lessons on how to engage in constructive conversations about vaccine hesitancy. The course also includes reliable sources of information about COVID-19 vaccines, an important tool in discussions around vaccines.
“When it comes to COVID-19 vaccination, it’s important that parents, educators, and school staff are equipped with the knowledge to make healthy decisions for their own families and to encourage others in their communities to do the same,” said Sara Johnson, PhD, MPH, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, director of the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education at Johns Hopkins, and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions. Johnson added, “These vaccination decisions and the ambassadors who encourage them can help save lives and prevent serious illness in our children.”
Funding support for these courses is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Johns Hopkins Consortium for School-Based Health Solutions.