As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds globally, vaccines and the process of vaccinating communities have dominated front page headlines demonstrating not only the potential for COVID-19 vaccines but also reiterating the role of routine immunization in controlling disease. While essential public and global health work researching and modeling COVID-19 occurs, the social and behavioral dimensions of the pandemic, and vaccination in particular, require further understanding in order to inform responses and best serve local communities. Research-informed solutions are needed to understand and address vaccination dynamics in low- and middle-income countries, as scholarship to date has largely focused on high-income settings. Additionally, vaccination research has traditionally focused on “hesitancy” in the global health field, making the interdisciplinary nature of the grant call conducive to conceptual innovation and multidisciplinary collaboration to best understand the topic. The Social and Behavioral Research Grants Program provides an opportunity to conduct research and inform locally suitable solutions to improve vaccine uptake and eliminate disease.
What are the social and behavioral dimensions of COVID-19 vaccination or routine immunization that contribute to vaccine uptake in low- and middle-income countries, and what are the solutions that might address them? Sabin’s grant program will fund innovative projects that utilize appropriate and rigorous research methods to illuminate the social dimensions of vaccination at multiple levels and then examine potential solutions to address those dimensions. Project topics might include, but are not confined to the role of:
- public/community-level trust
- information (including mis- and dis-information) and contested scientific truths
- pandemic-induced social distancing, quarantines and isolation
- social inequalities and group marginalization
- patient/provider interactions; clinical settings; health care worker attitudes and practices
- memory of past pandemics or previous vaccination efforts and their impact on present day vaccination
- religious, government, other institutions’ role in vaccination and pandemic response
- influence of media and social media in vaccine knowledge, perceptions, and/or decisions
Applicants may present other topics for consideration. Proposals focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and on communities acutely impacted within low- and middle-income settings are particularly encouraged. Such proposals will allow for the most impact since the research has potential to inform responses by communities, governments, international aid organizations and other responding actors.
Eligibility and Criteria
The grant offers funding for projects to conduct research and implement solutions for up to twelve (12) months beginning in August 2021. Awards will be made up to $50,000, dependent upon the project’s proposed budget.
The Social and Behavioral Research Grants program is open to researchers and implementers from interdisciplinary fields exploring vaccination amongst communities in low- and middle-income country settings. Proposals for projects in high-income settings will not be considered. Project teams must be interdisciplinary and comprised of principal investigators (PIs) originating from both the social and behavioral sciences (e.g., medical anthropology) and global public health fields. Partnership with a local immunization program is strongly encouraged.
Since the grants program is geared toward individuals and institutions with limited opportunities and resources for funding, proposals from for-profit entities will not be considered. Proposals from those currently serving on Sabin’s Vaccine Acceptance Research Network (VARN) leadership committee, or currently employed at Sabin, will also not be considered.
Proposals are expected to design a research project, translate research findings into a locally-informed solution or implementation strategy that constructively addresses socio-behavioral dynamics contributing to vaccine uptake, test that solution or strategy, and produce a written output (e.g., policy brief, intervention strategy paper, etc.) directed at a relevant audience. Applicants should also identify the intended audience(s) for the output (e.g., Ministry of Health; faith-based community organization, etc.) and create a dissemination plan of their project findings amongst key stakeholders.
This grant centers on local community engagement. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate existing partnerships with local stakeholders. To disseminate knowledge and findings amongst local stakeholders and directly benefit communities, applicants are expected to partner with local community organizations and to engage with immunization program managers, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations.
Due to the ongoing pandemic and ethical constraints on human subjects research to protect both researchers and research participants, we require applicants to consider remote research and solution pathways. Applications proposing in-person pandemic research must make a strong ethical argument for non-remote research that demonstrates how the team’s findings will be used to protect/provide strong benefits to individuals in the middle of the pandemic emergency (e.g., insights that will lead to community vaccination). All research must comply with local health authorities and Institutional Review Board (IRB) regulations. Ethical considerations must be made in advance of an IRB application, centered in the grant project’s design, and included in the grant application. IRB ethics approval from a local IRB institution for the project will be required for successful applicants.
The application deadline is July 5, 2021.