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Sabin Vaccine Institute Funds Researchers to Investigate COVID-19 Misinformation, Design Solutions to Increase Vaccine Acceptance

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) announced today that it has awarded grants to research teams in four countries to explore the social drivers of COVID-19 misinformation, and its impact on routine immunization acceptance and the acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The grants are part of Sabin’s Social and Behavioral Interventions for Vaccination Acceptance Small Grants Program, which provides funding to researchers in low- and middle-income countries to better understand the social drivers of vaccination and design small-scale interventions to assess their impact on vaccination acceptance.

Five research teams in India, Kenya, Pakistan and Uganda will receive up to $30,000 to conduct this research and pilot a small-scale intervention in their respective communities over a period of 10 months.

Through this support, Sabin is encouraging collaborative, on-the-ground relationships between academic researchers, health officials and local communities. Grantees will have the opportunity to build relationships and have impactful conversations about their research and potential applications of social science for immunization with the Sabin-led interdisciplinary Vaccination Acceptance Research Network, an international group of social scientists and public health experts addressing vaccine acceptance and demand. Sabin will also support each research team in the compilation and dissemination of an open access journal publication, accessible to the communities in which the research is conducted. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all components of the projects will be conducted virtually to ensure the safety of the research teams and the communities they work with.

"It is more important than ever to better understand vaccine acceptance in low- and middle-income countries,” said Kaitlin Christenson, vice president of Vaccine Acceptance & Demand at Sabin. "The expected introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine furthers the need to learn more about driving acceptance and demand for vaccines and to work with community immunization programs on intervention strategies, while continuing to improve overall immunization uptake.”

The 2020 Sabin grantees include:

In India, Dr. Rajeev Seth, MBBS, MD, DNB, a senior consultant pediatrician leading Bal Umang Drishya Sanstha, a non-profit organization in New Delhi focused on child health and welfare for marginalized children, will lead a team of researchers to study community health worker perceptions of and misinformation surrounding vaccines. Co-investigators from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, represented by Baldeep Dhaliwal, MPH, and Dr. Anita Shet, MD, from the Department of International Health within the International Vaccine Access Center, will collaborate with Dr. Seth and a team of researchers on the project. The virtual study will employ multi-pronged community health worker interventions in the Mewat district of Haryana, India, to address barriers to vaccine acceptance.

In Kenya, Dr. Benson Wamalwa, MSc, PhD, research scientist and lecturer from the University of Nairobi, will lead a team to virtually study COVID-19 misinformation in trusted social networks with the goal of better understanding perceptions of COVID-19 and the community’s willingness to accept a COVID-19 vaccine in Tans Nzoia, Kenya. The research team will then implement and evaluate an intervention that seeks to debunk COVID-19 misinformation through teleconsultations. Kenya Registered Nurse Chrysanthus Wamela, chief registrar of the maternal neonatal and child health unit of AMUA, joins the team as the co-investigator guiding the project.

In Pakistan, Abdul Momin Kazi, MPH, MBBS, assistant research professor in pediatrics and child health at Aga Khan University in Karachi, will lead a virtual research project to study the perceptions and barriers of childhood vaccination amongst health care workers and caregivers at a peri-urban site in Karachi. The research team will also explore the role of mobile health-based interventions and social media on improving childhood immunization during COVID-19. Dr. Fauzia Aman Malik, PhD, MSc, special advisor to the dean for global health research initiatives at Yale University, will serve as the co-investigator on the project.

Also in Pakistan, Rubina Qasim, MSc, a lead researcher and lecturer at Dow University of Health Science in Karachi, will lead a research team exploring misinformation surrounding COVID-19 and vaccination amongst urban slum dwellers in Landhi Town, Karachi. Following their research, the team will employ a co-design approach, working with community members to design and implement an appropriate intervention addressing COVID-19 misinformation and its impact on the acceptance of a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Mohammad Tahir Yousafzai, PhD, consultant epidemiologist and senior instructor at Aga Khan University, joins the project as the co-investigator.

In Uganda, Dr. Freddy Kitutu, PhD, a lecturer of health systems, pharmacist, and researcher and dean of the School of Health Sciences at Makerere University, will lead a team to study the prevalence and effect of misinformation in Buikwe District. Following their research, the team will train and empower community influencer groups to address COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. The virtual study will explore dialogue-based social mobilization intervention through community groups and influencers. Jacquellyn Nambi Ssanya, MPH, from Makerere University School of Public Health joins the project as the co-investigator.

About the Sabin Vaccine Institute

The Sabin Vaccine Institute is a leading advocate for expanding vaccine access and uptake globally, advancing vaccine research and development, and amplifying vaccine knowledge and innovation. Unlocking the potential of vaccines through partnership, Sabin has built a robust ecosystem of funders, innovators, implementers, practitioners, policy makers and public stakeholders to advance its vision of a future free from preventable diseases. As a non-profit with more than two decades of experience, Sabin is committed to finding solutions that last and extending the full benefits of vaccines to all people, regardless of who they are or where they live. At Sabin, we believe in the power of vaccines to change the world. For more information, visit www.sabin.org and follow us on Twitter, @SabinVaccine.

Media Contact:
Mary Beth Wooden
Sabin Vaccine Institute
+1 (202) 842-5025
press@sabin.org



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