Spreading a message of hope in face of the first-ever cancelled Carnaval in Brazil: #AllForVaccines
March 1, 2021
What if we used a cultural festivity that is synonymous with huge crowds to deliver a message about the importance of vaccination amidst a pandemic?
Of the many untranslatable words in Portuguese, perhaps saudade is the one that Brazilians have been holding onto the most since the start of the pandemic. It is usually translated as the feeling of missing something, or a nostalgic longing, but these translations fall short in describing what it means for us to not have Carnaval for the first time in our lives.
Brazil has one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with significant impacts that extend far beyond the realm of public health. With an official death toll of over 200,000 people, and more than 10 million reported cases, the light at the end of the tunnel for people in Brazil is still but a mirage. As vaccines started to become available in other countries, and vaccination in Brazil finally started in late January, it felt as if the end of the crisis could be on the horizon. After all, Brazil has had remarkable success in its response to public health emergencies in the past. Faster than a sigh of relief, however, was the realization that having safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 is, in many ways, only the beginning.
Vaccines and the pandemic have dominated the news around the world for almost a year, oftentimes intertwined with rising concerns about vaccine hesitancy, largely due to a steep rise in the spread of disinformation about the vaccines. In Brazil, the conversation around the pandemic has been intensely politicized, and vaccines have become a sensitive subject in an increasingly polarized social political setting.
Team Halo, a project to increase vaccine confidence supported by the UN Verified initiative, spearheaded a campaign along with various scientific communication institutions, which engaged a wide variety of actors, from music producers to comedians, from universities to cartoon artists and celebrities. The All For Vaccines campaign, launched in late January, conveyed one simple message: vaccines are safe, effective, and our only way out of this pandemic. Participants in the campaign flooded social media with fun and informative content about the importance and safety of vaccines, making its way to become a #1 trending topic on Twitter, and reaching tens of millions of people through organically earned media.
This first wave of the All For Vaccines campaign built momentum to further our approach and understanding that the conversation about vaccines, while extremely important and scientifically-informed, could come in all shapes and sizes.
Our creative process and content
Finding innovative ways to approach an issue that has been all over the news for months was a challenge in itself. So, leveraging much of the saudade we were ourselves feeling, we decided to tap into the absence of Carnaval and its intangible joys to raise awareness around a very tangible truth: only vaccination can bring Carnaval back. And, in Brazil, Carnaval is spelled with a capital C.
The São Paulo Sambadrome that lives in our memory is one in its peak splendor, with thousands of members of samba schools parading in exuberant outfits, transpiring excitement, while floaters burst with colors and movement and joy. What we would see this year was everything but that: a gray, empty passageway, with empty bleachers, and silence. We filled this void with a call to unite us around the importance of vaccines, and the fact that only if vaccines are made available to everyone, everywhere, will celebrations once again be able to bring people together – not just here, not just for Carnaval.
The result was an artistic installation of over 10,000 sq. ft. with the message #TodosPelasVacinas, which was widely covered by all the biggest media outlets in Brazil, and engaged important political actors from across the ideological spectrum.
This year, instead of uninterrupted parties, Carnival in São Paulo was marked by the "All for Vaccines" campaign. Volunteers from samba schools created a giant painting with the message #TodosPelasVacinas (#AllForVaccines) in #SãoPaulo Sambodrome.
📸:Lucas Hirai, Braga Drones pic.twitter.com/lwU3n9Audv
— Purpose (@Purpose) February 16, 2021
The art installation was visited by the first couple of flag-bearers from the Vai-vai Samba School, who danced with a special flag that carried the message “All For Vaccines”.
— Bloomberg Quicktake Brasil (@Quicktake_PT) February 16, 2021
So far, the activation has reached over 113 million people, in 8 countries besides Brazil. The short video about the activation conveys a way in which Carnaval can still touch us – even if we are still practicing social distancing:
Amid #COVID19, Carnival ended in Brazil this week without the traditional samba school parades, but with an important message:
Only vaccines for everyone can bring back the Carnival & so many other activities we miss.
None of us are safe, until all of us are safe. pic.twitter.com/vHCu01efsq
— United Nations (@UN) February 18, 2021
Image credits: Braga Drones, Lucas Hirai, Juliana Matteucci