At the Seoul-based International Vaccine Institute (or IVI), international teams of doctors, epidemiologists, chemists and other experts have worked on studying and preventing a range of deadly diseases for over 20 years. Usually, it’s quiet work, trying to make steady progress against some of the world’s most widespread diseases, like dengue fever, shigellosis or cholera.
But that changed dramatically earlier this year, as a new disease started to spread across the globe. It was a novel coronavirus, now commonly known as COVID-19, and it was growing quickly. “Suddenly, the phones started to ring,” said Youngmi Cho, the IVI’s head of global affairs and communications. “Realizing the potential impact on global health was a very sobering moment. Everyone was asking ‘When?’ — meaning ‘When will the vaccine be ready?’”
Youngmi Cho, head of global affairs and communications at the IVI, making a site visit to Mozambique
Getting out the right message to make a difference
As COVID-19 surged around the world, IVI launched a series of programs and joined in the international race for a vaccine. But they also realized they were also facing a second problem, as misinformation about the disease was spreading just as rapidly as the disease itself. So, it was important the IVI be able to get out correct information about COVID-19 and how to avoid it.
Fortunately, IVI and LINE had been working toward establishing a relationship, aiming to find ways of using the LINE messenger to enhance the IVI’s communication capacity. “It was very timely to connect with LINE,” Youngmi says. “The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of timely and consistent communication.”
The IVI and LINE first crossed paths in late 2019, and cooperation was officially established in April 2020 through a Memorandum of Understanding. Through the collaboration, LINE leverages its reach as a global mobile platform to promote the use of vaccines and announce other, life-saving information about contagious diseases. “We are very grateful for the collaboration with LINE,” Youngmi says. “Getting the right message across can make all the difference, and that’s exactly where LINE is a crucial help.”
Users can receive reliable information about vaccines and public health from the IVI Official Account (ID: ivi_international) offered by LINE
To achieve that, LINE provides IVI with an Official Account that allows them to easily and effectively broadcast crucial disease information to users in Indonesian, Thai, and English. Then in June 2020 LINE began the sales of digital stickers created in collaboration with IVI and LINE FRIENDS’ BT21 characters. All sales proceeds will be donated to IVI, supporting vaccine development and child immunization initiatives.
A mission to overcome infectious diseases in developing countries
IVI started in 1997 when the Republic of Korea and the World Health Organization signed the establishing agreement at the UN’s headquarters in New York City. The Institute was tasked with becoming an international player, ready to jump into disease-afflicted regions, providing assistance directly to affected communities. At the same time, leading scientists in Seoul worked on developing vaccines that could be used to mend those communities back together.
For Youngmi, working at IVI is more than just a normal job. “Renewable energy and wind turbines, that’s what I used to talk about,” she says. But in 2013, she received a job offer from IVI — she admits to not knowing much about them at the time, but as she researched, she grew more impressed. “The more I looked into IVI’s mission and values, the stronger I felt the calling. Saving lives – what could be more important?”
COVID-19 has reminded the world how important global health is, even while it has challenged the world economy and forced people everywhere to come to grips with uncertainty. “It’s only human that people are anxious when information is insufficient,” Youngmi says. “That’s where we as communicators can try to help people feel a bit more comfortable.”
Despite the circumstances, she sees a brighter future. “At IVI we really feel that we have been able to impact peoples’ lives through our efforts, she says. “Vaccines take time. But as we learn more about COVID-19 we wish to work even closer with LINE to save even more lives.”
Previous IVI-related articles:
LINE and International Vaccine Institute Release BT21 Donation Stickers to Promote Global Vaccination and Vaccine Development - https://linecorp.com/en/pr/news/global/2020/57
LINE and International Vaccine Institute Team Up to Promote the Importance of Vaccination - https://linecorp.com/en/pr/news/global/2020/54