VCF Grants Awarded

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Melanie French 
Oct. 14, 2021 Email: [email protected] 

The Alliance for Advancing Health Online Invests $7M+ through the Vaccine Confidence Fund to Boost Vaccination Confidence through Social Media 

ALEXANDRIA, VA, Oct. 14, 2021 – The Vaccine Confidence Fund (VCF) is pleased to announce the selection of 33 organizations that will receive grants totaling over $7 million from the Fund. VCF is the first flagship program of the Alliance for Advancing Health Online (AAHO). The AAHO’s mission is to bring together members from the technology, health, global development and academic sectors to advance public understanding of how social media and other online platforms can be leveraged to increase vaccination confidence and vaccine uptake. The Fund is financially supported by Facebook and Merck & Co. 

“The Vaccine Confidence Fund is playing a crucial role in leveraging innovative research to demonstrate new ways in which social media platforms can play a positive role in societal health,” said Heidi Larson, Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project and Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The VCF is bringing multiple disciplines together to take on this global health challenge to be more responsive to questions and concerns, as well as build public confidence in vaccines.” 

Grantees were selected in a competitive, open process managed by Global Impact, the fiscal sponsor and Fund manager, with the support of the VCF Advisory Council, a small interdisciplinary group of domain experts from the vaccination confidence, public health, social media, and behavioral and data sciences fields. 

“Supporting the public health efforts to increase vaccine confidence has been our top priority,” said KX Jin, Facebook’s Head of Health. “We’re looking forward to building on this work with the innovative approaches that will come from the newly selected grantees to advance our collective understanding of how social media platforms can be leveraged for positive health and increase the health and resiliency of communities around the world.”  

Grantees from the Fund were selected from a pool of almost 300 applicants and cover research topics touching all regions of the world with a strong focus on historically excluded or marginalized communities and authentic community engagement. VCF grantees will also bring new insights on both COVID-19 and routine immunization in communities including youth, the elderly, pregnant and postpartum women, health care workers, and people with disabilities. 

“Through this grant, we will acknowledge both contemporary and historical sources of Indigenous vaccine hesitancy while piloting social media interventions to promote vaccine confidence within partnering Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, Canada,” said Dr. Carrie Bourassa, Research Lead at Morning Star Lodge, Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, & Scientific Director at the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, CIHR. “Colonization has created conditions in which Indigenous Peoples in Saskatchewan are at elevated risks of severe COVID-19 outbreaks. With this project, we seek to promote health equity and vaccine confidence while identifying effective communication strategies for use in health promotion activities – whether they be vaccine-related or otherwise.” 

The projects selected will use a variety of novel research approaches and explore how behavioral nudges, natural language processing, the use of chatbots, and targeted influencers impact vaccination confidence and vaccine uptake. Finally, more than half of the grantees will be investigating the connection between social media (online) and vaccine uptake (offline) through vaccination bookings and/or actual vaccinations via health clinics. Please see the sample list below of grant recipients from the Fund or visit VCF’s website for a complete overview of the research.  

“Building confidence in vaccination is critical to reducing vaccine hesitancy, which threatens to stall and even reverse progress made in combatting vaccine-preventable diseases worldwide,” said John H. Markels, President, Merck Vaccines. “It is our hope that insights shared from these novel research efforts will support innovative solutions that increase the positive impact of accurate, scientifically based information, improving resilient and sustainable immunization programs worldwide.” 

While these grantees are conducting their research, the AAHO will be working with the Bay Area Global Health Alliance and the Sabin Vaccine Institute to host community conversations to highlight diverse, present-day examples of social media’s capacity to positively impact vaccine confidence and health behaviors. An example of these conversations includes the recently launched  Vax Up Podcast, a new series exploring the power of social media to strengthen vaccine confidence and shape health behaviors. The podcast is moderated by Ben Plumley of “A Shot in the Arm” podcast and will feature panel discussions with top experts and spotlight case studies including some of the grantees of the Fund. 

A sampling of Vaccine Confidence Fund grant recipients*

  • 19 To Zero in partnership with the University of Calgary and IV.AI 
  • Busara Center for Behavioral Economics 
  • Grameen Foundation India (GFI) 
  • International Longevity Centre 
  • IRD Global 
  • Johns Hopkins University 
  • Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health (D24H) 
  • Mali Health  
  • Minority Rights Group  
  • Morning Star Lodge, University of Saskatchewan  
  • Oklahoma State University 
  • ORB International, the Vaccine Confidence Project, and Real Chemistry 
  • Purpose 
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley 
  • Shujaaz Inc 
  • The Behavioural Insights Team 
  • The George Washington University 
  • The Unity Consortium 
  • Trustees of Indiana University 
  • University of California, San Francisco 
  • University of California, San Francisco; Maya Health Alliance | Wuqu’ Kawoq; Digital Medic/Stanford University 
  • University of Washington – Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 
  • University of Washington – Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering 
  • Upstream Thinking 

For more information, please visit vaccineconfidencefund.org

About AAHO 

The Alliance for Advancing Health Online (AAHO) is a newly forming initiative to advance public understanding of how social media and behavioral sciences can be leveraged to improve the health of communities around the world. The AAHO’s mission is to bring together the Bay Area Global Health Alliance, the CDC Foundation, Facebook, the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, Merck & Co., Inc., Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and Global Impact. This $40 million multi-year initiative will initially focus on addressing vaccine hesitancy and vaccine equity with a strong focus on historically excluded or marginalized communities.  In addition, the AAHO intends to create a global network of centers of social media and health research focused on improving health behavior via online platforms.    

About Global Impact 

Global Impact works on charitable ventures to inspire greater giving. We serve as a trusted advisor, intermediary and implementing partner across the private, nonprofit and public sectors. Through these partnerships, we have raised nearly $2 billion for causes such as disaster relief and global development. Global Impact’s reach and services are complemented by the work of our subsidiary company, Geneva Global


19 To Zero in partnership with the University of Calgary and IV.AI, Natural Language Processing to Systematically Analyze Social Media Sentiment Among Vulnerable Populations       

Understanding and tackling social media sentiment is critical to increasing vaccine uptake, particularly in vulnerable populations. In conjunction with community partners, we will use Natural Language Processing algorithms to systematically analyze sentiment in specific vulnerable populations and work to develop effective messaging to promote vaccination.

Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, Crowdsourcing Content to Improve Vaccine Confidence and Uptake in the Global South      

We use a novel approach in crowdsourcing original content from social media users in Kenya, Nepal, and the Philippines to build and test locally-driven COVID-19 vaccine campaigns. First, it crowdsources social media content for different types of vaccine messaging. Second, it uses survey experiments to test which types of messaging are the most effective across country contexts. Third, it uses news feed experiments to evaluate the extent to which top messaging strategies are effective within a competitive information environment for each country. We use survey measures to track vaccine confidence and behavioral measures to track vaccine uptake.

Corowa-kun Supporters, Impact of a LINE chatbot and a webinar on COVID-19 vaccine intention and vaccine confidence in Japan: a Randomized Controlled Trial

Our research study is a three-arm randomized controlled trial using online interventions to increase the COVID-19 vaccine uptake among those aged 20 or older in Japan. Study participants will be randomly assigned to the following three interventions group: (i) an online chatbot, (ii) free webinar sessions, and (iii) no intervention. All three groups will complete pre and post online questionnaire surveys to assess the vaccine intention and confidence before and after the interventions. This project is partnered with the Vaccine Confidence Project and Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health (D²4H).

Grameen Foundation India (GFI), D-VACSI: Driving Vaccination Confidence through Social Media Innovations

The objective of the project is to assess the role of social media in resolving information asymmetry and driving COVID vaccination confidence & uptake amongst low-income households in rural India. The experiments will compare and contrast the efficacy of social media channels in resolving vaccination hesitancy and driving vaccine uptake through phygital model and digital model.  Focus areas for the intervention are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana & Tamil Nadu in India.

International Longevity Centre, Generation Vax: Leveraging intergenerational relations to increase uptake of immunization intergenerational relations to increase uptake of immunization             

This project will explore whether younger generations can encourage older people to get vaccinated. Specifically, ILC will create and test social media content to explore whether engaging younger people on social media increases uptake of the flu and pneumococcal vaccines among older people living in socioeconomically deprived areas. ILC will also explore whether results differ among people from Black-African and Black-Caribbean communities within these areas.”

IRD Global, Boost: Building Vibrant Online Communities to Support COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake Through Participatory Engagement Principles

BOOST is a community-led behavior change campaign that utilizes participatory action research for user-informed social media engagement to improve COVID-19 vaccine confidence, and promote vaccine uptake in 3 high-risk districts of Karachi, Pakistan. We will develop 6 online groups across various social media platforms, which will be supplemented through interactive community engagement enabling communities to co-create content for the campaign, focusing on the social barriers around COVID-19 and its vaccine. Vaccine camps will be held in these districts in collaboration with the Government of Sindh after the campaign to provide equitable COVID-19 vaccine services coupled with routine immunization.

Johns Hopkins University, A Social Media Approach to Young People in India Serving as COVID-19 Vaccine Advocates

This project brings together youth groups in India to develop and disseminate short videos through YouTube and Facebook that will urge young people to act as ambassadors to persuade their family members and others in their community to get vaccinated. The project tests the hypothesis that having young people serve as vaccination advocates will, in turn, change their own attitudes and vaccination intentions. Mixed-method evaluations will assess how reactions to videos are shared across social media platforms and how they can be leveraged for promoting vaccination.

Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health (D24H), Development and Impact Assessment of a Conversational AI Service (chatbot) on Covid-19 Vaccine Confidence and Uptake.   

The primary objective of this project is to develop and evaluate a conversational AI service on communication platforms for users to obtain accurate vaccine information and to assess the veracity of vaccine information in Hong Kong (China), Singapore, and Bangkok (Thailand). Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), social listening analytics, and the RE-AIM framework will be employed for formative, impact, and process evaluation of the intervention. This project will be conducted by a consortium of partners including Hong Kong University, Vaccine Confidence ProjectTM (VCP), National University of Singapore, and the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program (HITAP). 

Mali Health, Kènèya Blon: Use of Voice-Based Social Media Messages to Improve Vaccination Knowledge and Confidence in Underserved Peri-urban Communities           

Kènèya Blon is a voice-based platform developed with women living in peri-urban communities in Bamako, Mali for delivering health information in low-connectivity and limited-resource settings.  This project aims to test the ability of Kènèya Blon to improve vaccination knowledge and confidence in marginalized communities.

Minority Rights Group, Diversity: Impact on Vaccine Equality – DIVE         

We know that minorities and indigenous peoples don’t always benefit equally from routine childhood vaccinations. We want to know if this pattern is replicated in Covid-19 vaccinations and if so, why. DIVE will use AI social media monitoring tools to track conversations about the Covid-19 vaccination programs in Algeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  We will look for differences in those conversations by language, ethnicity,  and religion.  We will be particularly interested in differences in both vaccine confidence and vaccine access (whether clinics serving all groups are offering vaccines, have stock outs and how different groups are targeted/informed about vaccination opportunities.)

Morning Star Lodge, University of Saskatchewan, Where Past Meets Present: Understanding COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Indigenous Peoples in Saskatchewan 

This project will pilot two social media interventions that are informed by historical and contemporary sources of hesitancy. One intervention will address the narrative tactics used by conspiracy theories while the other employs behavioral insights. Social media analytics will provide intermediate measures of effectiveness. Established Indigenous Community Research Advisory Committees will guide all aspects of research and provide assessments and recommendations.

Oklahoma State University, Modeling Vaccine Confidence Interventions for Marginalized Migrant Communities: A Mixed Method Approach to Leveraging Social Media Narratives

This project addresses the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among marginalized migrant populations. Our study will use an interdisciplinary mixed-method design to identify, model, analyze, and validate narratives of vaccine confidence among marginalized migrants in the US. We will start by building a database of posts, mining and processing these records, then extracting and modeling posts containing expressions of vaccine confidence. We will also conduct in-depth interviews to qualitatively validate and further explore the identified features and story structures of vaccine confidence. Building on the previous analyses, we will design narratives expressing vaccine confidence to be post-tested through a nationwide survey.

ORB International, the Vaccine Confidence Project, and Real Chemistry, Exploring Drivers of HPV Vaccine Confidence and Community-led Solutions Leveraging the Experiences of Mothers, Daughters, and Health-care Providers in Brazil     

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the fourth biggest cause of mortality among women in Brazil according to the Pan American Health Organization. Using robust online surveys, emotional insight focus-groups, and co-creation workshops, this research will explore the rational/emotional drivers of HPV vaccine confidence including the dynamics between mothers and daughters around vaccine take-up. We will incorporate health care providers’ expertise and co-develop communications strategies encouraging vaccine confidence with mothers and daughters. Applying behavioral science, anthropology, sociology, and semiotics frameworks, we will develop a scalable approach, replicable in other geographies, to better understand how to increase HPV vaccine confidence and take up.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University,  Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, Targeted Vaccine PSAs Based on Political Science and Economic Insights   

In the United States, public reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic has been deeply polarized by political party affiliation. This creates a rare instance in which political scientists and economists are among those best suited to devise solutions to a public health problem. We created public service announcements (PSAs) tailored to increase vaccine uptake among hesitant populations. We will use social media to randomly expose people in different counties to our PSAs and then measure their effect on changes in county-level Covid-19 vaccination rates.

SHUJAAZ INC, Tunajengana: Using Social Media to Mobilise young East Africans to Champion Community Uptake of COVID-19 Vaccines

We are Shujaaz Inc, a network of social ventures based in Kenya and Tanzania. We believe this generation of young people can transform our global society for the better – that’s why we work to break down barriers so that young people can take control of the future. Our multi-media youth platform Shujaaz, is a unique digital and real-world community that gives young people the self-belief to succeed; through a dedicated campaign we are connecting our 4.4 million social media followers with the information, insights and confidence they need to champion community uptake of the coronavirus vaccine at a national scale.

The Behavioural Insights Team, Designing and Testing a WhatsApp Chatbot to Make booking a Covid-19 Vaccination Appointment Easier in Argentina                 

We will partner with the Behavioural Insights Unit in the Argentinian President’s Office, Turn.io, and the Santa Fe Ministry of Health to design and implement a WhatsApp chatbot which aims to make booking a Covid-19 vaccine appointment easier. The chatbot will allow residents in Santa Fe, Argentina to book an appointment entirely through WhatsApp messages. We will evaluate the impact of this new chatbot on vaccine bookings. If the chatbot increases vaccine bookings, we will make the code open source and publish it alongside a “How-to” guide to enable governments in other countries to implement their own chatbots to make vaccination booking easier.

The George Washington University, Empathic Engagement with the Vaccine Hesitant in Online Spaces

We propose to reduce vaccine hesitancy online using the microtargeting abilities and community structure of social media platforms to better understand the concerns of the vaccine hesitant. We hypothesize that effective communication builds trust by addressing the gist of their concerns. Here, we propose to deploy the GW Health Communication Volunteer Corps — a trained service group for disseminating evidence-based health information — to test this hypothesis.

The Unity Consortium, Research Study on Activating Vaccine Supportive Parents of Adolescents and Young Adults as Trusted Voices on Social Media

Unity will use novel research techniques to understand the elements necessary to engage and educate parents through social media about adolescent and young adult (AYA) vaccination, ensuring AYA protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. This will inform a Unity-driven social media capacity-building intervention to amplify parents’ voices and increase vaccine confidence amongst their peers.

University of Antwerp, Research to Increase Confidence in Maternal Vaccination by Digital Communication Interventions     

Since pregnant women, fetuses and neonates are vulnerable to infectious diseases related morbidity and mortality, it is important to understand barriers in the uptake of maternal vaccines to decrease vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination coverage in fertile, pregnant, and lactating women. Therefore, different aspects and interventions of social media communication and its impact on vaccine confidence, acceptance and coverage in fertile, pregnant, and lactating women will be investigated.

University of California, San Francisco, Impact of WhatsApp Bots on COVID Vaccine Acceptance among Pregnant Women in Northern India

Expanding high quality vaccine education is critical for pregnant women, yet uptake in India is low due to fears and misconceptions. Bots offer an innovative opportunity for automating responsive and efficient education. Using a human-centered design approach we will develop and test a behavior change communication Bot for COVID-19 vaccination education in collaboration with Indraprastha Institute for Information Technology, Delhi; the Post-Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research and the Survival for Women and Children Foundation. We will test the impact and acceptability of Bot deployment on vaccine hesitancy and acceptance among pregnant women. 

University of California, San Francisco; Maya Health Alliance | Wuqu’ Kawoq; Digital Medic/Stanford University, Who to Trust: Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake through Trusted Messengers and Social Networks in Indigenous Communities Guatemala   

Our team, comprised of public health researchers and epidemiologists, digital behavior change experts, and an organization working to improve the health of indigenous communities in rural Guatemala, aims to refine already ongoing messaging about vaccine hesitancy by combining insight from communities with expertise gained from previous social media messaging campaigns.  We will then roll out our social median campaign and test the impact on vaccine uptake at local health centers, as well as on vaccine hesitancy and other beliefs.

University of Washington – Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Using Social Media to Identify Drivers of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy in the US by County and ZIP Code             

This project will utilize data collected from surveys implemented on social media to track community-level trends in COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and understand how and why hesitancy varies among US communities, in combination with methods to monitor social media channels and gather community-level knowledge about factors that could improve vaccine acceptance.

University of Washington (Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering), Large-scale Studies to Advance Public’s Access and Trust of COVID-19 Vaccine Research on Social Media

Scientific findings demonstrating COVID vaccine efficacy could most directly answer people’s questions about the vaccines, boost vaccine confidence, and increase vaccination rates. However, these findings are difficult to communicate to audiences who may have a lack of trust in, and/or experience with, science. Through codesign sessions and large-scale online studies, we seek to develop guidelines for integrating and visualizing science-backed vaccine knowledge into social media posts. Our results will improve access to, understanding of, and confidence in vaccine research for diverse people.

Upstream Thinking, Redirecting Existing Demand for Information Towards Vaccine Confident Interpretation by Identifying Online Behavioral Nudge Interventions           

The majority of strategies addressing vaccine hesitancy to date have sought to act on the supply side of content by prefacing, restricting, or removing content.  This project aims to affect the other side of the equation which has received much less attention – existing demand. How might we channel the existing demand to formulate personal opinions to shift online behavior towards vaccine confident content and interpretations?