The UK’s coronavirus vaccination programme is in full swing, with all hopes of emerging from this horrific crisis resting on the population getting jabbed – except, not everyone is on board.

For anti-vaxxers there is still unsubstantiated speculation and outright refusal to participate, as well as the fact that due to decades of health inequality, it’s been reported that some people of colour are hesitant to take the vaccine.

It’s a familiar problem that former US president Jimmy Carter’s administration experienced in the late 1970s, when trying to promote immunisation to Americans, who were still spreading illnesses like measles and whooping cough. 

So, they devised a campaign featuring the galaxy’s most trustworthy public figures: C-3PO and R2-D2.

Mel Magazine has documented the time when the Star Wars machine undertook a wholly different task altogether.

Walter Orenstein, the US National Immunisation Program’s former director, explains how difficult it was to educate Americans on the importance of measles vaccines – especially for children – following a resurgence of the disease.

The article also includes quotes from Peter Shillingford, who would go on to direct a commercial meant to help solve that problem, after he worked on Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope’s making-of documentary.

Using a Star Wars set and props in London, and working with C-3PO and R2-D2, actors Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker, filmed a public service announcement (PSA) that was finished within a day.

In the commercial, the bronze 3PO informs his squat companion that droids may be safe from polio, measles, and whooping cough, but human children can suffer serious health complications or die from them if they aren’t vaccinated.

The final line states: “Immunise your children please, and may the force be with you.”

Daniels even mentioned the advert in a recent tweet, saying: “Droids don’t get Covid. But humans do. Please … Get vaccinated, too. We’re NOT doomed! My sincere thanks to Dr Aboi and the NHS UK.”

He also revealed in his memoir that the PSA was “horrible – a sludgy, if informative script” in which R2 “appeared to pay no attention to the laws of physics” – and went on to write and star in Star Wars anti-smoking PSA

The campaign by the Carter administration also led to a poster of C-3PO and R2-D2 with the headline, “Parents of Earth, are your children fully immunised?”

Overall, it was considered somewhat successful, in that it significantly reduced the number of measles incidents for a number of years.

So if you know someone who is vaccine-hesitant, why not show them the Star Wars advert? Perhaps a couple of droids from a galaxy far, far away, could be enough to convince them that vaccines are vitally important, and really do save lives.

More: What it’s really like parenting during a pandemic

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