By Kate Hopkins, PhD, Director of Research, Vaccine Acceptance & Demand

INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAMS WILL EXPLORE VACCINE ACCEPTANCE, UPTAKE STRATEGIES AND LOCALLY SUITABLE SOLUTIONS

The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand initiative is proud to announce funding for 10 grant partners awarded through the 2021 Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge communities throughout the Global South, calls to action highlight the need for not only vastly expanded supply of vaccines but also rapid COVID-19 vaccination uptake to alter the current course. Insights from the social and behavioral sciences that identify both challenges and opportunities impacting the effectiveness of the public health response to the pandemic are more critical than ever. The selected research projects located within eight countries in the Global South will apply a range of social and behavioral science approaches to investigate and inform locally suitable solutions that support acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccination—inclusive of strategies for addressing the misinformation within the COVID-19 infodemic and assessing the impact of the pandemic on routine vaccination—particularly among the hardest to reach communities and ‘zero-dose’ populations.

With a duration of 12 months, research-related activities for the 10 selected projects will be initiated after local ethical approvals are obtained in eight geographic settings. Research teams are interdisciplinary in nature, with Principal Investigators entrenched within both social and behavioral sciences and global/public health fields. The diverse cadre of study investigators will explore research embedded within the themes of vaccine equity, marginalized communities, and social media and messaging strategies.

A graphic highlighting countries represented across all three years of the grants program.Established in 2019, the Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program initially provided a mechanism to fund on-the-ground research to explore childhood and routine vaccination acceptance among communities in low- and middle-income countries. Its pilot year awarded up to $25,000 to three projects spanning ten-months in India, Sierra Leone and Uganda. In 2020, the funding of five selected projects expanded partnerships to Pakistan and Kenya and supported the addition of new projects within India and Uganda. However, as with all else, the COVID-19 pandemic re-cast both the program’s needs and priorities, and the third and most recent funding cycle delivers up to $50,000 to 10 grant partners, representing an immense growth in programming.

This year, 352 eligible applications were received from institutions in over 50 countries. A three-phase peer review process—consisting of internal and external multidisciplinary experts—evaluated proposals based on several key criteria, including:

  • Novelty of methodologies and the related potential impact on the field
  • Substantive demonstration of collaborative partnerships with locally based health programs and policy and practice communities to foster a community-centric approach
  • Expected impact on the field of actionable project outputs that can constructively address the socio-behavioral dynamics influencing vaccine uptake within the localized context

Central to the objectives of the 2021 partnerships and funding are efforts to develop and disseminate evidence-informed knowledge and solutions-based strategies from the research. Sabin’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand team will support each grant partner in the compilation and dissemination of each project’s solutions-oriented outputs, which could include:  

  • Policy briefs and recommendations
  • Intervention design and implementation strategy agendas
  • Case study evaluations 
  • Messaging toolkits
  • Peer-reviewed published manuscript (optional; other deliverables can be developed in lieu of or in addition to this)

Grant partners are also invited to join the Sabin-led interdisciplinary Vaccination Acceptance Research Network (VARN), a globally representative group of multidisciplinary academic researchers, social scientists, global health practitioners, and immunization program professionals and policymakers, and will be invited to participate in and present their research at the annual VARN conference following project close-out. Importantly, partners will be supported to continue to engage stakeholders to share the critical insights and lessons learned from their work that may have application to policies, programs, and practice in communities across the globe. Opportunities will be facilitated through Sabin’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand Resource Hub, our Immunization Advocates and Boost Community programs, and key external partnerships supported by Sabin’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand program. These opportunities allow for capacity and relationship building that connects grant partners’ research with broader applications of the social sciences to help improve global immunization.

Stay tuned for further introduction to the 2021 research teams, where we’ll highlight each of the rigorous and novel methodologies serving to illuminate the social dimensions of vaccination at multiple, nested levels of influence and examine potential solutions to address those elements, contributing to evidence-based knowledge within the field of vaccine acceptance and demand. 

Originally posted on vaccineacceptance.org.