‘An opportunity we shouldn’t pass up’

Screenshot of a music video related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Frustrated that many members of Vermont’s resettled African community are “more afraid of the vaccine than COVID-19,” Irene KeruBo, an Afro-jazz singer and dancer in Burlington, is taking on the skepticism and fear directly and creatively. While international groups are flooding social media with “targeted misinformation intended to create irrational fear” about side effects and safety, KeruBo’s music video “Chanjo” (Swahili for “vaccine”) urges the community to get the vaccine.

“This is a matter of life and death,” KeruBo says. While acknowledging misinformation campaigns are out of her control, she says, “Here in America we have freedom of speech and I can use my creativity to inspire people to get the vaccine. When they see me getting my vaccine, maybe they will begin to trust.”

The video features KeruBo dancing alongside her colleagues from the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) and includes footage of her COVID vaccination layered with an upbeat, catchy tune and directive lyrics, sung in Swahili: “Won’t you save your life with the vaccine…vaccine…vaccine.”

“There are different ways to deliver information, and this is fun!” says KeruBo.

KeruBo is part of a larger local vaccine education team made up of members from UVM Medical Center and various national, state and local partners; the groups have conducted culturally-specific vaccine education sessions in 12 languages, to more than 700 community members. The sessions feature a presentation about the vaccine and allows participants to ask questions or share their concerns.

KeruBo served as an interpreter for the session conducted in Swahili, and also assisted with recruitment; she willingly shares her own story about getting the vaccine. “If we can come together with one message, I believe we can overcome this,” says KeruBo. “Vaccination is an opportunity we shouldn't pass up."

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