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Focusing on Social Media/Messaging Strategies

Get to Know Two of Our 2021 Social and Behavioral Research Grant Partners

By: Deeva Agravat, MSc, Abigail Quinn, BA, Kate Hopkins, PhD, MPH

The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand initiative is proud to provide funding to 10 grant partners awarded through the 2021 Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program. This blog is the third in a series examining the selected research projects based on one of three themes: vaccine equity, marginalized communities, social media/messaging.

Alongside the global COVID-19 pandemic an infodemic has simultaneously occurred, resulting in the public experiencing an influx of information, both accurate and inaccurate. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp have assumed a critical role in the rapid dissemination of information. The information consumed has shaped public attitudes, perceptions and behaviors around vaccines, while also evoking misinformation and disinformation. This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the oversaturation of information stemming from sources that are not credible or well trusted, thus creating an information void and fueling conspiracy theories and rumors leading towards a continuous cycle of misinformation and disinformation.

Social listening within social media and other online platforms has become a key strategy for harnessing useful information to inform global health campaigns, including the structuring of health communications. Through the extraction and analysis of social media platform aggregate data, social listening strategies allow for a data-driven understanding of public conversations and related attitudes, perceptions and beliefs by topic popularity, stratified not only by population socio-demographics but geospatially, allowing for cultural and community context.

Case studies on social media messaging campaigns, such as those demonstrated in Ukraine and Nigeria, have emphasized the role of digital platforms as a tool that can contributing positively to increasing vaccine uptake for routine immunization programs. Messages were formatted to encompass social and behavioral drivers through three different messaging approaches: authoritative, emotional and informative. Additional studies conducted by Facebook, in Brazil, India, Nigeria and Pakistan also sought to build vaccine confidence and test the effectiveness of different content, messages and messengers in positively shifting knowledge and perceptions of vaccines and willingness to vaccinate.

Sabin’s Social and Behavioral Grants Program is proud to support our 2021 grant partners in North Central Nigeria and in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, India. These two research projects will conduct timely research pertaining to social media and messaging strategies supporting vaccine uptake to expand knowledge and address gaps in this emerging area of study. These projects seek to understand how effective messaging and sharing of content online can improve vaccine uptake in low-resource communities. Through community-centric collaborations between healthcare practitioners and community level organizations, messaging strategies can be identified which lead to more effective health communication, building of trust and increased health literacy.

Meet Our Grant Partners Focused on Social Media and Messaging

Targeted Messaging for COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance in Nigeria

Women Advocates for Vaccine Access (WAVA), in partnership with Direct Consulting and Logistics (DCL), Nigeria, will be conducting a quasi-experimental study to assess the impact of co-designed and co-disseminated targeted messaging interventions on COVID-19 vaccine uptake amongst hesitant health workers and adults in North Central Nigeria. This project — led by Principal Investigator Chisom Obi-Jeff, managing director of Direct Consulting and Logistics Limited—working collaboratively with Dr. Chizoba Wonodi, founder of WAVA, IVAC Nigeria Country director, and a public health physician—will use human-centered design approaches to create targeted messaging interventions for evaluation. Message development will be guided by the and associated behavioral and social drivers (BeSD) of vaccination that influence vaccine uptake, (i.e.; what people think and feel about vaccines, social processes that drive or inhibit vaccination, individual motivations or hesitancy to seek vaccination, and practical factors involved in seeking and receiving a vaccination) and actively engage target communities.  The effectiveness of such interventions in addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy will be evaluated.

“The grant offers WAVA the opportunity to fill the gap in the urgent need to thoroughly understand the socio-behavioral drivers of COVID-19 vaccination,” said Dr.  Wonodi. “The use of the human centered design approach could potentially transform the current practices of not involving end-users in designing messages and implementation strategies to address vaccine hesitancy in developing countries.”

The study’s intervention group will receive the targeted messaging, while the control group receives standard messaging from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). The NPHCDA is responsible for health communications across Nigeria to the public, publishing up-to-date briefings, text messages, social media posts, short videos and voice notes to educate the public, address misinformation about COVID-19 and encourage COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The study will include three phases:

  • Surveys conducted with healthcare workers and eligible adults
  • Identification and partnerships with community leaders and influential persons in the community to facilitate tailored communications and augment message acceptance
  • Endline evaluations through qualitative interviews and surveys

The Impact of Community-based Messaging Platforms on Vaccine-related Attitudes and Behaviors in India

The Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), a leading non-profit civil society organization dedicated to social science research, and Immunise, an initiative working to create scalable health communication and behavior change systems, have teamed to implement a study in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Informed through a district-level secondary data analysis, inclusive of econometric modeling to understand the localized determinants of vaccine hesitancy, the project aims to partner with community-based organizations to design trusted and effective COVID-19 and vaccine-related timed messages to the public, local authorities, cultural leaders and influencers. Information will be disseminated through telephone mass messaging services and social and digital media to identified targeted population groups.

Led by Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Ashmita Gupta, PhD, economist and faculty at ADRI, and Dr. Salvia Zeeshan, an advisor within Immunise and a public health specialist, the project will use a comparative approach by examining disparities between states in India demonstrating vaccine specific disparities among urban-rural communities and socio-economic divisions. Post-messaging, primary data will be collected through a two-phased telephonic and online survey to assess the intervention’s efficiency in promoting pro-vaccine behavior and countering anti-vaccine narratives.

“We will work together on this project to study the impact of the internet and community-based platforms on people’s attitudes and behaviors towards COVID-19 vaccination in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand,” Dr. Gupta and Dr. Zeeshan said in a joint-statement. “We hope that this research will not only help the policymakers in the current COVID-19 vaccination program but will go a long way in understanding the socio-economic factors behind addressing vaccine hesitancy in general.”


Deeva Agravat, MSc

Deeva Agravat is the Vaccine Acceptance Associate for the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand initiative. Her work focuses on attitudes, behaviors and perceptions impacting vaccine uptake in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Her portfolio consists of assisting with programmatic activities, curation of the Vaccine Acceptance Resource Hub and resources for the Insights Dialogue project. She received her MSc in Emerging Economies & International Development from Kings College London. The focus of her dissertation addressed the relevance of intellectual patent laws and multinational pharmaceuticals impacting domestic pharmaceuticals in LIMICs. Her specialization areas include development of healthcare infrastructures, health-related advocacy and the urban/rural divides within the context of South Asia and East Africa.
Deeva Agravat, MSc

Abigail Quinn

Abigail Quinn is currently a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, where she studies Global Public Health with double minors in French and foreign affairs. She is also a first-year in the Master’s of Public Policy Program at UVA where she focuses on healthcare policy. She is originally from Norwell, Massachusetts. At the University of Virginia, Abigail holds a variety of leadership positions, from working on a student-run research podcast to tutoring fellow students in French. She was recently published in the Virginia Journal of International Affairs with a paper discussing regional disparities in female healthcare access in India. She is always eager to engage further with global health equity and vaccination research.
Abigail Quinn

Kate Hopkins, PhD, MPH

Dr. Kate Hopkins oversees the research programming across the Vaccine Acceptance & Demand team to implement program activities, expand and manage partnerships, invest in new research projects and continue the growth of Sabin’s thought leadership programming. Prior to joining Sabin, Kate spent 11 years living and working in sub-Saharan Africa conducting infectious disease prevention and psychosocial-behavioral research and health service program implementation in low- and middle-income countries—with particular focus on high-risk and vulnerable populations. Managing multi-country and multidisciplinary teams, her past portfolio of work included supporting clinical research site operations and strengthening capacity for the conduct of HIV and COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials within the HIV Vaccine Trials Network and COVID-19 Prevention Network. Kate supported the implementation of the ENSEMBLE J&J Phase III clinical trial and the subsequent SISONKE J&J COVID-19 vaccination rollout amongst healthcare workers in South Africa. Kate has been a joint-Faculty Researcher for the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, for nine years; and is a virtual course lecturer on Operational Research within a post-graduate diploma program in TB/HIV Management for the University of Cape Town in South Africa. She was awarded funding for her PhD study from the CDC as a PEPFAR-funded activity under its Cooperative Agreement with the South African Medical Research Council, earning her degree from the University of the Witwatersrand School of Public Health. She also holds a Masters in Public Health, with a focus on Global Health, from Boston University School of Public Health.
Kate  Hopkins, PhD, MPH
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