Social and psychological determinants of vaccination uptake – Linking attitudinal and behavioural data to policy analysis and implementation


Supervisor: Nick Sevdalis

Non-accademic partner: Sanofi Pasteur

Studentship start date: October 2021

Suboptimal coverage in vaccination programmes remains a global health priority. Every year 60 million frail adults in the EU are not protected against influenza by vaccination. Flu epidemics can cause between 500,000-1,000,000 deaths globally. The World Health Organisation recently concluded that high-quality behavioural research linked to policy-making and broad partnerships are essential to tackle this challenge. The ongoing COVID19 pandemic is likely to exacerbate some concerns about vaccination in general and about flu vaccination in particular (as they are both respiratory viruses), with anti-vaccination coverage already present in some media. This project offers such a novel partnership between academia, the vaccine manufacturing industry, and policy-making, grounded on social science methods. The project will apply implementation science concepts, which is a relatively new multidisciplinary field aiming to accelerate the translation of research findings into health services and policy (in this case, aiming to increase flu vaccination coverage). Following literature review, the project will firstly deliver a comparative ‘gap analysis’ between population-level concerns around vaccination for flu (as ‘exemplar’ vaccine) and what national vaccination policies and supporting campaigns focus on. The UK and Germany are the two countries of focus for the research. Next, the project will address these gaps (wherever found) – at structured workshops with policy design and implementation stakeholders. The outputs of these workshops will be novel vaccination policy/campaign briefs informed by behavioural evidence and co-designed by scientists, policy-makers, advocates and other stakeholders. Finally, the project will produce short versions of previously developed detailed surveys that measure attitudes towards flu vaccination. Statistical methods will be used to derive short versions of those surveys, which will be easier to implement at scale by policy-makers. The project is stakeholder-driven and sensitive to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. We will thus seek to apply lessons from the well-developed attitudinal evidence base on the flu vaccination to potential concerns about a COVID19 vaccine (when one becomes widely available). We will further consult with stakeholders (which is a core phase of the proposed research) to apply the proposed methods to both the seasonal flu and the COVID19 vaccination programmes if the global pandemic context necessitates this approach. We have already started this translational process: the student and supervisor of this research have just published one of the first, to our knowledge, attitudinal studies of a COVID19 vaccine in the UK, informed by the theoretical and empirical evidence base on flu vaccination acceptance. This flexibility allows the proposed doctoral programme to flexibly adapt and effectively respond to both pandemic need and the need for ongoing successful flu immunisation in the UK and globally in the coming 3 years.