Scolding people doesn’t get them vaccinated against COVID-19. Neither does lecturing, preaching or shaming. But what about humour?
Steinbach teacher Andrew Unger thought it might be worth a try to reach members of southern Manitoba’s Low German-language Mennonite community.
Unger, best known as the author of the Mennonite satire website the Daily Bonnet, came up with an idea for a Low German sticker: "Etj sie jaegen COVID-19 Jeimpft" ("I’m vaccinated against COVID-19").
"When I saw stickers being handed out after people got a vaccination, I thought they should also be in Plattdeutsch," he said, using the Low German word for the language.
He pitched the idea to the province’s vaccine task force, suggesting they be made available at the Steinbach and Morden inoculation super sites.
According to a provincial spokesperson, the task force decided to make the stickers after discussions with community members and leaders, seeing it as "One way we might be able to encourage and recognize people who’ve chosen to get the vaccine."
"We hope it encourages local conversations and enthusiasm for the vaccine, so people feel included and represented, while we continue to support the community to encourage vaccine confidence and uptake," the spokesperson added.
While he was trying to be a bit humorous, for Unger the issue is also "quite serious."
"It’s a fun thing, but maybe it will be a way to convince some who are vaccine hesitant to get it," he said.
He realizes it will take more than a sticker to convince some. But he can imagine someone who speaks Low German who is vaccine hesitant seeing a friend they trust bearing the sticker — maybe that will catch their attention, produce a smile and start up a conversation.
"Maybe it connects with them at a deeper level through their mother tongue," Unger said, adding: "It can show them we want everyone in the community to be part of the effort against COVID-19."
Reaction online has been positive.
"That’s fantastic! I wish I had known they were available yesterday. Would have asked for one," said one comment.
"My parents (who both speak Low German) want the sticker when they get their shot later this week!" said another.
The province has produced 1,000 stickers; more will be made if there is demand.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.