The project will aim to fill critical information gaps in South Africa and Zimbabwe
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, and its partners today announced the launch of a new project, the Vaccine Information Network (VIN), which will examine COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in South Africa and Zimbabwe with the goal of better informing efforts to promote vaccination in the two countries. The new project is a product of the Vaccine Safety and Confidence-Building Working Group (VacSafe).
VIN is supported by Schmidt Futures, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Aspen Pharmacare. Founding VacSafe partners, Columbia University and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, are joined by RTI International, Charles River Medical Group in Zimbabwe, the Rhodes Trust based at the University of Oxford, the Atlantic Institute, and the Schmidt Science Fellows.
The project aims to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates through data-driven confidence building messages from trusted community leaders and partnerships with governments.
“We are excited to embark on this crucial work to better understand attitudes and experiences related to COVID-19 vaccination,” said Charles Lau, Ph.D., who is leading RTI’s contributions to the project. “After access, vaccine hesitancy threatens our ability to combat this pandemic, and right now, governments and other stakeholders in many countries and communities in Africa lack information about the best strategies to promote vaccination.”
The project will follow a three-phase approach in both countries, beginning with focus group discussions to understand the nature and drivers of vaccine hesitancy.
In the second phase, the research team will recruit and interview a cohort of 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine recipients three times over six weeks to understand the motivations, barriers, safety perceptions, side effects and other experiences of COVID-19 vaccination.
In the final phase, the researchers will draw on their findings to co-design a strategic communications framework with local influencers, including religious leaders, community leaders and media.
“The drivers of vaccine hesitancy vary from country to country and even locality to locality,” said Dr. Larry Stanberry, Associate Dean for International Programs and Director of the Programs in Global Health at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Without a better understanding of the local reasons behind vaccine hesitancy and how people overcome their hesitancy, it is challenging to build a strong local plan to promote vaccination.”
Dr. Tariro Makadzange, M.D., Ph.D., founder and CEO of Charles River Medical Group in Zimbabwe, added: “This project will equip governments and local influencers with the critical data and information needed to create effective messaging.”
Learn more about the project
About RTI International
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach — one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.
About Columbia University’s VacSafe Working Group
The Vaccine Safety and Confidence-Building Working Group (VacSafe WG) will catalyze and support projects that generate, scale and analyze actively-collected vaccine safety surveillance and pharmaco-vigilance data in Africa. Dr. Lawrence Stanberry, Associate Dean for International Programs and Director of the Programs in Global Health at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Shabir Madhi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, are the science co-directors. VacSafe WG is convened by Wilmot James PhD, Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and policy (ISERP) and co-convened by Joshua Nott at Schmidt Futures, For more information, visit https://vacsafe.columbia.edu/.