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Vaccine Misinformation and Its Link to Vaccine Hesitancy and Uptake in Durham


Durham, United States


September 04, 2018 - December 01, 2019

Project Objectives

Vaccinations administered during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life are crucial for preventing a myriad of potentially deadly and debilitating infections such as polio, pertussis, measles, influenza and tetanus. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence on the benefits of vaccinations, pregnant women and parents of young children often refuse to accept, or choose to space out, vaccinations for themselves or their children. This phenomenon, termed vaccine hesitancy, is blamed for several vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the U.S., including the 2017 measles outbreak in a Somali community in Minnesota. In order to design effective behavior change interventions to mitigate vaccine hesitancy, we need to understand the role of misinformation in the development or promotion of vaccine hesitancy, as well as the subsequent decision to accept vaccines without delay.

This Bass Connections project will study vaccine misinformation and its impact on vaccine hesitancy and uptake in Durham. Specifically, the project team will:

Conduct secondary data analysis of the coverage and timeliness of maternal and pediatric vaccines in Durham using the Duke Enterprise Data Unified Content Explorer (DEDUCE) database
Collect data on and assess the role of media and web-based information sources in shaping vaccine hesitancy concerns among pregnant women and new parents
Retrospectively evaluate the link between vaccine hesitancy and vaccination coverage/timeliness in a cohort of 100 parents who have children (ages 3-6 years) attending Duke Health clinics.

By carrying out these objectives, the team will measure the prevalence and distribution of vaccine hesitancy; elucidate the frequency and type of social media promoting vaccine hesitancy; develop or adapt methods to curate and analyze information sources; and analyze the association between vaccine hesitancy and vaccination uptake in pregnancy and early childhood.

Anticipated Outcomes include: Presentation of findings to Duke community and/or members of North Carolina Immunization Advisory Board; abstracts submitted to conferences; manuscript(s) submitted to peer-reviewed journals; preliminary data for grant proposals

Project Opportunities

Student team members will receive training quantitative data analysis methods; human subjects research methods, pediatric and maternal vaccinations, computational journalism and data science. Team members will be selected based on strong interest in global health, vaccines, biostatistics and/or computational journalism from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds such as global health, computer science, engineering, humanities, biostatistics, public policy and/or medicine. Applicants with experience relevant to project aims may be preferred over other applicants at the same learner level.

This team will include up to 9 student team members with a target distribution of 6 undergraduate and 3 graduate students and/or residents/postdocs. Students will divide into 3 sub-teams that will each include 1 graduate student/postdoc and 2 undergraduates. Each sub-team will have distinct yet complementary responsibilities:

Sub-team 1: Quantitative data analysis using DEDUCE
Sub-team 2: Data collection and assessment of influence of information sources in shaping vaccine hesitancy concerns*
Sub-team 3: Human subjects research activities to evaluate the link between vaccine hesitancy and coverage/timeliness.

*Students interested in being part of sub-team 2 will be required to enroll in the spring semester course COMPSCI 216: Everything Data (Instructor: Machanavajjhala).

Students may also take COMPSCI 316: Introduction to Databases (Instructor: Yang) to acquire additional data management and analysis skills useful to project goals. All students will be required to complete the online human subjects research training modules.

In order to facilitate effective work within and across teams, students will likely meet weekly with sub-teams and monthly with the entire team. Faculty provide content on topic areas and resources as well as help students develop short-term goals toward the achievement of deliverables. Evaluation criteria include attendance at team meetings, participation in team activities and quality of deliverables.

Project Application Process

Please review all project details carefully and submit your application through the Bass Connections Website (https://bassconnections.duke.edu).

Project Application Deadline


Project Placements Available


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