COVID-19 vaccine engagement in the UK and USA

The British Academy, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Science & Innovation Network in the USA (SIN USA) have collaborated to award funding to 10 transatlantic studies focused on UK-US COVID-19 vaccine engagements, including examples of community confidence and hesitancy. These awards follow a pilot study exploring levels of vaccine engagement in four locations: Oldham and Tower Hamlets in the UK, and the cities of Boston and Hartford in the US.

Funded by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, each award is worth up to £100,000 and will last for up to five months in duration.

Ref: CRUSA210012

Award Value: £80,388.00

Research Team: Dr Ozge Ozduzen, University of Sheffield; Dr Wenwen Dou, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Dr Billur Ozgul, Brunel University London; Dr Nelli Ferenczi, Brunel University London

Title: Mapping and visualising intersections of social inequalities, community mistrust, and vaccine hesitancy in online and physical spaces in the UK and US

Abstract: How do social inequalities play out within the global vaccine uptake in the COVID-19 pandemic? This project will map and visualise the reasoning of vaccine-hesitant groups in the UK and US whilst drawing suggestions towards community cohesion between vaccine-hesitant groups and medical practitioners. It will take an interdisciplinary approach combining media studies, political communication, cross-cultural psychology, and computer science in tracing the relationship between historical legacies, cognitive processes, social media interaction and vaccine-hesitancy. This project will adopt a "symmetrical" research design which is absent in most current studies, as we analyse the systematic prejudices of both medical communities and vaccine-hesitant populations. The project will investigate social, cultural, and political factors underpinning vaccine-hesitancy, study the topics and social networks of minoritised vaccine communities on Twitter, Reddit, and Telegram, and highlight biases and assumptions within medical communities about minority groups, which perpetuate mistrust based in historical unethical practices by dominant culture group members.


Ref: CRUSA210017

Award Value: £59,169.00

Research Team: Dr Reed Wood, University of Essex; Marie Juanchich, University of Essex; Dr Mark Ramirez, Arizona State University

Title: Evaluating the Influence of Exposure to Anti-vax Protests on Vaccine Hesitancy across Diverse Audiences

Abstract: This project will investigate the potential role that protests by anti-vaccination movement organizations play in reinforcing and perpetuating disparities in COVID-19 vaccine confidence across different populations within the United States and United Kingdom. To better understand this relationship, this project will examine how observer attributes — in particular, a set of socio-psychological vulnerabilities — moderate the influence of exposure to anti-vax protest events on individuals' beliefs about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and their support for its use. It will also consider whether immediate responses to such events undertaken by different types of authorities mitigate or exacerbate the relationship between anti-vax protest exposure and vaccine hesitancy. Results from survey experiments deployed in both countries will offer insights into the conditions that determine receptivity to anti-vax messaging among target communities and provide clues as to the most effective strategies available to health authorities and governments seeking to counter vaccine hesitancy provoked by anti-vax movement organisations.


Ref: CRUSA210015

Award Value: £78,748.00

Research Team: Professor Sian Moore, University of Greenwich; Dr Eklou Amendah, University of Southern Maine; Dr Calvin Burns, University of Greenwich; Professor Christina Clamp, Southern New Hampshire University

Title: Understanding vaccine hesitancy amongst frontline workers – the influence of trade union and community representatives

Abstract: The study will explore how longstanding structural inequalities and experiences of working through COVID-19 manifest in the decisions frontline workers, often BME and migrant workers, make about vaccination. It will locate workers and workplaces in their wider communities and explore the interaction of work and community influences and organisations. A US-UK comparison will allow for interrogation of contexts specific to place, culture, social, political and economic factors. It will allow for comparison of health and welfare infrastructures and of culturally sensitive healthcare systems and how these shape worker responses to vaccines. The study will examine the factors informing vaccine hesitancy in the context of work and the workplace and organisational rules and expectations on vaccination. It will explore the role of trade union representatives and community organisations in negotiating or mediating vaccination and in engaging workers and the community in vaccination programmes, while being sensitive to potential tensions.


Ref: CRUSA210022

Award Value: £72,797.00

Research Team: Dr Megan Schmidt-Sane, Institute of Development Studies; Dr Elizabeth Benninger, Case Western Reserve University; Ms Tabitha Hrynick, Institute of Development Studies; Dr Santiago Ripoll, Institute of Development Studies

Title: Youth Participatory Action Research to explore the context of ethnic minority youth responses to COVID-19 vaccines in the United States and United Kingdom

Abstract: As COVID-19 vaccine equity continues to be of great concern in the United Kingdom and United States, attention is growing toward groups with the lowest rates of vaccination including ethnic minorities and youth. While mainstream public rhetoric around low youth vaccine uptake focuses on youth "risk-taking" and "apathy", it is imperative to understand how longstanding inequalities and current dynamics may drive these lower rates of vaccination. Youth have experienced unique challenges during the pandemic including school closures, social isolation, and loss of services and support, which may have an impact on youth (mis)trust in a range of public health experts and other government authorities. This project will use Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) to explore the context of systemic racism, inequalities, and injustice in ethnic minority youth responses to COVID-19 vaccines. This project will explore how youth conceptualise trust and what strategies might be deployed to improve vaccine engagement and equity.


Ref: COVG7210043

Award Value: £100,000.00

Research Team: Dr Ben Seyd, University of Kent; Dr Joseph A Hamm, Michigan State University; Professor Will Jennings, University of Southampton

Title: Identifying the trustworthiness of information sources during the COVID-19 pandemic: Enhancing information reception across the population

Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the centrality of official information to effective public health strategies. Yet there are notable social and economic disparities in individuals’ acceptance of such information. A key reason for this disparity is likely to be variations in individuals’ trust in key information sources. This project will explore the bases for people’s trust in information sources, and how far the levels and determinants of trust are shaped by individuals’ location in particular communities and socio-economic groups. These goals will be pursued via a programme of qualitative and quantitative fieldwork in the UK and US. The project will generate important and valuable lessons for policy-makers in both countries, and at local and national levels, identifying ways to develop more effective and equitable information provision strategies and thus generating social resilience for future health crises.


Ref: CRUSA210021

Award Value: £99,182.00

Research Team: Dr Christopher Saville, Bangor University; Professor Daniel Rhys Thomas, Public Health Wales; Dr April Young, University of Kentucky

Title: COVID and the coalfield: Vaccine hesitance in Wales and Appalachia

Abstract: The coalfields of South Wales and Appalachia share a common history of industrialisation and deindustrialisation, with a legacy of economic and health-related disadvantage. Both coalfields have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine promotion is a priority to limit this impact. The coalfields are culturally distinct and research on the specific and general factors underpinning vaccine hesitance in these regions is important to maximise vaccine uptake. This project will identify attitudes towards vaccination and sociodemographic risk factors for vaccine hesitance through collection of survey data from coalfield and non-coalfield areas of Wales and the eastern United States. Findings will be shared with practitioners and policy-makers to help shape the continuing response to the pandemic.


Ref: CRUSA210024

Award Value: £95,324.00

Research Team: Professor Silvia Sonderegger, University of Nottingham; Dr Andy Brownback, University of Arkansas; Professor Guillermo Cruces, University of Economics; Dr Seung-Keun, University of Nottingham

Title: Securing the Goalposts on Vaccine Hesitancy

Abstract: Amidst continually increasing evidence in favour of vaccination, hesitancy is sharply divided along political lines. This project will quantitatively assess to what degree vaccine hesitancy is driven not by a lack of information on COVID-19 and its vaccines, but by politically motivated reasoning and exposure to abundant misinformation. Using a large-scale randomised control trial, this project will test scalable interventions to combat misinformation and biased reasoning on vaccination. Ultimately, we hope to deliver communication tools that allow healthcare providers to identify which individuals will be receptive to good-faith conversations on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination as well as productively engage those who are otherwise determined to reject any information that is perceived to be pro-vaccination. Our approach will adapt the communication tools of “Paradoxical Reasoning” which were developed to unfreeze entrenched beliefs in the context of the most intractable conflicts (e.g., the Israeli-Palestinian border conflict).


Ref: CRUSA210025

Award Value: £77,992.80

Research Team: Professor Rusi Jaspal, University of Brighton; Professor Julie Barnett, University of Bath; Professor Daniel Wright, University of Nevada

Title: Psychological Influences on Citizen COVID-19 Preventive Behaviours and Vaccine Engagement in the UK and US with particular regard to the importance of ethnicity

Abstract: This research will review systematically empirical psychological research on citizen reactions during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to establish what robust conclusions can be drawn and to identify limitations. One objective is to examine whether the international research effort might have been better co-ordinated and communicated to support the pandemic response and subsequent readiness. Secondary analyses of large-scale datasets collected through the pandemic will be used to assess contextual, localised and sub-group differences in COVID-19 responses. New data, from ethnically diverse samples in the UK and US, will be used in conjunction with our earlier series of surveys to establish changes in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and its predictors over time. Predictors considered will include identity resilience, power differentials, mistrust, perceived risk and fear. To inform policy development, forms and effects of uncertainty regarding vaccines and variants are also explored. Analyses will encompass both quantitative and qualitative approaches.


Ref: CRUSA210009

Award Value: £68,377.00

Research Team: Marie Juanchich, University of Essex; Professor Wändi Bruine de Bruin, University of South Carolina; Dr Tim Chadborn, Public Health England; Dr Cara Lynell Booker, University of Essex

Title: Mind the Vaccination Gap: Understanding and Overcoming the Racial/Ethnic Inequalities in Vaccination Acceptance

Abstract: With the constant threat of new epidemic waves and the emergence of variants, COVID resilience can only be attained when a sufficient level of immunity is achieved. Yet, in the US and the UK, COVID vaccination campaigns have failed to secure consistent vaccination acceptance in racial/ethnic minority communities. Despite racial/ethnic minorities being more at risk from COVID, they are less vaccinated than the White majority. This project proposes that current vaccination invitation messages are deemed less trustworthy by racial/ethnic minorities than the White majority and that this might partly explain reduced vaccination acceptance. To provide causal evidence of the role of trust and actionable insights, this project will experimentally assess the benefits of new invitation messages to receive the COVID-19 booster dose in large, racially/ethnically diverse samples in the US and the UK. Results from this project will evidence how to increase message and source trustworthiness to foster trust and vaccination acceptance across racial/ethnic groups.


Ref: COVG7210005

Award Value: £89,093.04

Research Team: Professor Peter John, King’s College London; Professor Peter Loewen, University of Toronto; Dr Manu Savani, Brunel University London

Title: Overcoming barriers to vaccination by empowering citizens to make deliberate choices

Abstract: Vaccine rollout has been a game-changer across G7 countries. But policy-makers face a further challenge: how to encourage vaccine take-up when vaccine hesitancy persists? The role of individual attitudes and personal autonomy has been under-researched, and there is scope for public policy to empower citizens, and harness individual reflection to facilitate informed and deliberate choices. This project will produce new, timely, cross-country survey evidence to identify gaps between the nature of the vaccine engagement problem and the policy response across G7 countries. This evidence will inform new vaccine engagement strategies that focus on the individual, and test how these strategies affect a person’s sense of autonomy and agency in making important vaccination decisions. This project will engage in a series of research activities including policy mapping, focus group interviews, a cross-country survey, and randomised testing of vaccine engagement strategies.

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