Sabin Welcomes 10 Partners to the 2021 Social and Behavioral Grants Program

The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance & Demand (VAD) initiative is proud to announce funding for 10 grant partners awarded through the 2021 Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program

The selected research projects located within eight countries in the Global South will apply a range of social and behavioral science approaches to investigate and inform locally suitable solutions that support acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccination—inclusive of strategies for addressing the misinformation within the COVID-19 infodemic and assessing the impact of the pandemic on routine vaccination—particularly among the hardest to reach communities and ‘zero-dose’ populations. With a duration of 12 months, research-related activities for the 10 selected projects will be led by interdisciplinary research teams exploring research embedded within the themes of vaccine equity, marginalized communities, and social media and messaging strategies. 

Established in 2019, the Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program has rapidly grown in its reach of applicants and areas of investigation. This year, 352 eligible applications were received from institutions in over 50 countries. Selected projects were required to demonstrate clear linkages in scope and outcomes between both social and behavioral sciences and global/public health fields along with multidisciplinary teams of investigators. Members of the Vaccination Acceptance Research Network (VARN) participated in a three-phase peer review process focused on several key criteria, including the novelty of methodologies and the related potential impact on the field and substantive demonstration of collaborative partnerships with locally based health programs and policy and practice communities to foster a community-centric approach. 

Central to the objectives of the 2021 partnerships and funding are efforts to develop and disseminate evidence-informed knowledge and solutions-based strategies from the research that can constructively address the socio-behavioral dynamics influencing vaccine uptake within the localized context. These outputs (e.g.; policy briefs, implementation strategy agenda, etc.) can either be in lieu of or in addition to a peer-reviewed manuscript. Sabin’s VAD team will support each grant partner in the compilation and dissemination of actionable outputs.

Grant partners have also been invited to join the VARN and will be supported to share the critical insights and lessons learned from their work that may have application to policies, programs, and practice in communities across the globe. We hope these efforts to further build and strengthen networks and capacity will help connect grant partners’ research with broader applications of the social sciences to improve immunization outcomes globally.

We look forward to introducing you to each of the 2021 grant partners in our next newsletter! 

Program Updates

The months of September and October brought a season of change for Sabin’s VAD initiative. With the departure of both Kaitlin Christenson and Meaghan Charlton comes appreciation for their historical contributions to VARN, as well as new leadership, energized for sustained forward momentum. Stacey Knobler, vice president of Vaccine Innovation & Global Immunization, and Kate Hopkins, director of research for VAD, will work across Sabin’s VAD programming, including the VARN, to identify ongoing opportunities to leverage the generation and translation of new knowledge and research findings to improve vaccination policies, programs, and practices. As Kate kicks off her leadership of the VARN, become more acquainted with her in this introductory blog.

The Inaugural VARN Conference 2022

We are excited to announce that tentative dates for the VARN Conference (#VARN2022) have been set – join us March 1-3, 2022! This inaugural meeting will be both open to the public and virtual in nature and serve as a space for exploration, research results sharing and discussing key priorities and opportunities across the ecosystem. Through the conference, Sabin will support the wide dissemination of a growing body of knowledge and evidence-informed strategies for action. 

The conference Call for Papers (CFP) was launched on November 4, to help shape and facilitate presentations and panel discussions designed to inform the real-time challenges and efforts of local, national, regional, and global community actors in attendance. We invite you to apply and share amongst your networks. The CFP will close on December 15 and the selection of papers is expected in late January. 

Working with Sabin VAD leadership, the VARN2022 conference planning committee includes:

  • Ève Dubé, PhD, VARN Chair, Quebec National Institute of Public Health, Canada
  • Baldeep Dhaliwal, MSPH, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, USA
  • Momin Kazi, PhD candidate, MBBS, MPH Aga Khan University, Pakistan
  • Freddy Eric Kitutu, PhD, Sustainable Pharmaceutical Systems Unit, School of Health Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda
  • Rupali Limaye, PhD, MPH, MA, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, USA
  • Rubina Qasim, MSc, Institute of Nursing, Dow University of Health Sciences, Pakistan 
  • Holly Seale, PhD, MPH, School of Population Health, University of New South Wales, Australia

Register To Attend

News from the Field

Sabin’s 2019 Grant Partner project, led by Dr. Luisa Enria of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with partners from the Kambia District Health Management Team, Sierra Leone, received extended funding in 2020 to expand its scope and use the findings and design of the original work to support the COVID-19 response in the Kambia District and additional border communities.  

The initial phase of the project was able to highlight new entry points for community engagement not previously pursued by Expanded Program on Immunization staff and other community health practitioners. These novel approaches to promote respectful dialogue between community members and health care workers proved to be particularly well received as a trust-building intervention with positive knock-on effects for vaccine uptake. Results of the work were presented to members of the Sierra Leone Health NGO network, disseminated amongst the Community Health Impact Coalition, and recently published in PLoS One

Continued funding of the project in 2020 allowed for extended implementation of the community health worker training-research-engagement model—which was adapted to include the production of weekly reports on social responses and concerns and rumors about pandemic control measures. Expansion of activities focused on five border communities for rumor tracking and ethnographic observation of three key areas: 

  • Experiences and perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, including tracking rumors and concerns, potential challenges in the acceptance of key measures (especially relating to borderland communities) and potential opportunities for strengthening community-led action against the pandemic
  • Potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other active outbreaks (polio and yellow fever) on uptake of routine vaccinations
  • Barriers and opportunities for the future deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine

In addition to this exciting work, Sabin’s other 2020 grant partners are set to deliver the final results and reporting of their projects in December. Partners will be invited and encouraged to present their findings at the 2022 VARN Conference. The expected outcomes and project partner teams are available for review here.

Share Your News

Please submit your ideas or summaries of your work from the field for consideration in upcoming newsletters. Send your 500-word summary and up to three figures or images to [email protected].

Events and Funding Opportunities

Upcoming Events

Funding Opportunities

  • UK Medical Research Council
    • Award Amount: £150,000
    • Topic: To develop an early-stage intervention that seeks to address UK or global public health challenges
    • Deadline: Currently open; Closes: January 25, 2022 
  • Wellcome Trust
    • Award Amount: Salary and up to £400,000
    • Topic: Funding for early-career researchers from any discipline who deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing
    • Deadline: Currently open; Closes: February 15, 2022
  • National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
    • Award Amount: Various
    • Topic: Research to address vaccine hesitancy, uptake, and implementation among populations that experience health disparities
    • Deadline: Opens December 17, 2020; Closes: January 8, 2022
  • Pfizer
    • Award Amount: Various
    • Topic: Studies measuring the impact of efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy and enhance vaccine uptake
    • Deadline: Rolling basis