‘I Care About This Community': Vt. Musician Uses Song to Promote Vaccines to New Americans

Kerubo Webster created a music video in Swahili dedicated to increasing acceptance of vaccines among new Americans

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A Vermont musician, who is also a social worker, is combining those two passions as she tries to increase vaccine acceptance among new Americans.

"I'm glad that I do what I do, because I care about this community," said Kerubo Webster, a native of Kenya who now calls Vermont home.

In her recent music video, "Chanjo," a word she said means "to vaccinate" in Swahili, Webster encourages new Americans to protect themselves and others against COVID-19 through vaccines the nation's health experts insist are safe and effective.

"Save your family, save your lives, reclaim your lives," Webster said, describing in an interview Thursday with NECN and NBC10 Boston what she hopes is the core message of her song. "We can achieve this if we do it together."

Sara Chesbrough works on equity issues for the Vermont Health Department.

"We do know that there's a disparity in vaccine uptake nationally — we see it here," Chesbrough said.

While Chesbrough said the state has made coronavirus information available in English and the 10 other most-commonly spoken languages here, she acknowledged grassroots efforts like Webster's can build trust among people who may be hesitant about vaccines or who may not be tuned into traditional government messages.

"If it's something for the community, by a community member, it's really powerful," Chesbrough said.

Webster said her mission has taken on added significance because several years ago, she wondered if she'd ever sing again.

"I almost died," Webster recalled, explaining she suffered an aneurism in the part of her brain that controls language. "I was in a coma for a while."

When she recovered, regaining her voice, Webster was determined to use it to promote hope and wellness, she said.

The musician is also a case worker for AALV, the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, helping new Americans integrate into the community.

Webster told NECN and NBC10 Boston some of her clients have expressed to her that they were hesitant to accept the vaccines.

"For a while there, there was nothing," Webster said, describing the impact she has seen since releasing her music video. "And then, eventually, I started seeing trickling numbers start to show up. I'm feeling confident that they are now starting to respond. They're showing up and starting to get the vaccine, too."

Webster said she recently heard from public health officials in other states, who want to share her video with new Americans elsewhere. Additionally, she said her work is receiving attention in Kenya.

The artist and social worker added that she has also been hosting online informational sessions and translating information from trusted sources, aiming to increase vaccine acceptance among the new Americans she serves.

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