Working Toward a Long Life for All with Dr. Ashmita Gupta and Dr. Salvia Zeeshan!
In conducting research to create impact, project Principal Investigators Dr. Ashmita Gupta, PhD, and Dr. Salvia Zeeshan, MD, MPH, and their team working in Bihar and Jharkhand, India, can promote vaccine equity, improve immunization rates for children and reduce incidence of communicable diseases that are preventable by vaccines— all of which are vital in working toward the World Immunization Week 2022 theme of A Long Life for All. This multidisciplinary team is part of the 2021-2022 Sabin Social and Behavioral Research Grant Program cohort and investigating how the spread of false information on social media, demographic and socio-economic factors, and existing equity issues impact COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and demand.
Dr. Gupta, an economist and faculty member at the Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI), and Dr. Salvia Zeeshan, MD, MPH, a public health expert at Immunise, lead one of the 10 grant recipient teams of Sabin’s 2021-2022 Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program, which supports close-to-community research as a way to develop broad insights into vaccine acceptance in the Global South.
The multidisciplinary team will employ a robust research methodology to investigate the following primary aims through conducting both a district-level secondary data analysis and primary data collection through phone and online surveys of adults in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand to assess the messaging intervention’s efficiency in promoting pro-vaccine behavior and countering anti-vaccine narratives:
- What is the role of demographic and socio-economic factors on vaccine hesitancy?
- What are the existing equity issues in the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts and how can they be addressed?
- Can social media and community platforms be used to promote pro-vaccine behavior, counter anti-vaccine narratives, and eventually improve vaccine uptake in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand?
The secondary data analysis, inclusive of econometric modeling, will support the identification of the least vaccine acceptant groups within the study population and localized determinants serving as barriers towards vaccine acceptance; while the pre- and post-intervention phone surveys aim to assess knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Harnessing these gained insights and through the use of social media and phone messaging, the team with partner with community-based organizations to design and pilot test trusted and effective COVID-19 and vaccine-related timed messages to the public, local authorities, cultural leaders and influencers, which address specific barriers of vaccine acceptance
We asked the team a few questions to learn more about their research. Join us for the conversation below!
What is the role of social determinants of health on vaccine acceptance in your community?
In the Indian population, vaccine acceptance was found to be greater among males, those with higher education, higher socio-economic status, the unmarried, and those employed as health care workers. Exposure to misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and public concerns over the safety of vaccines have shown to contribute to lower acceptance rates. Within the country, there exist disparities between states. The states of Jharkhand and Bihar, where our current research is based, have lower education levels and poorer outcomes in health. We must study the data from these states to further understand the factors that influence vaccine acceptance in the region.
How do you think social media can be used to combat misinformation and increase vaccine acceptance in your community?
Mass information campaigns using social media can be a useful strategy to increase vaccine acceptance in the communities. Communication focusing on the benefits of vaccines, their safety, efficacy and long-term gains, myth-busting, countering false information with facts and positive personal experiences can be included on social media platforms of reliable scientific and government bodies. These channels can then be endorsed by social media influencers, healthcare workers and local leaders that the community members trust.
What recommendations do you have to increase vaccine acceptance based on your research?
In India, where most of the population was found to rely on WhatsApp forwards and word-of-mouth information as their primary source of knowledge and news, we can utilize social media channels, timed messaging and local helplines to spread transparent and verified information in local languages and dialects. Engaging communities via local radio, television channels, regional newspapers and regional art forms including music, murals, graffiti, dance and drama can also be powerful ways to spread authentic information. Providing clear and transparent information about vaccines, as well as financial and non-financial incentives can also be strategies to increase the uptake of vaccines.