Associations Partner to Address Vaccine Uptake

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases plans to gather community-level data to address vaccine resistance.

Two associations and a leading nonprofit have partnered with industry on a pilot program to identify reasons why U.S. adults avoid vaccination for respiratory diseases.

Last month the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit that educates the public and healthcare industry about the illnesses, announced the initiative as a partnership with two associations:  The Association of Immunization Managers (AIM), which represents federally funded directors of public health and immunization programs, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing local public-health workers. Together, the organizations will use publicly available data and original surveys to study why many resist vaccines for diseases like RSV, COVID, influenza, and pneumonia.

A business partner, geomapping company Fraym, will develop data visualizations that intend to show attitudes toward vaccination at the community level. The goal of the program is to give healthcare workers better information that can help them craft messages and processes that increase vaccine uptake, said NFID CEO Marla Dalton, PE, CAE.

Reasons for vaccine resistance can be complex and don’t always slot easily to political affiliations.

“We’re looking at how we can assist those on the front lines in deploying effective approaches to outreach and immunization service delivery,” she said. “It’s not that the data was lacking, but it’s about putting hyperlocal data into the hands of the people who can use it to move the needle.”

Reasons for vaccine resistance can be complex, Dalton said, and don’t always slot easily to political affiliations; for instance, flu vaccination rates hover around only 50 percent, with lower levels among some racial ethnic groups, and lack of access to healthcare services more generally can be a factor. “We often see political lines influencing public health,” she said. “But when you get down to the zip-code level, you can see how behaviors change.”

The research is funded through NFID reserves, and a steering committee that includes representatives from each of the three organizations is determining the scope of the research. In the initial phase, the research will select a handful of communities to test its research and mapping concepts through the end of 2024, with plans to expand after that. “The hope is that ultimately this will be scalable, and we can add additional partners at various phases as appropriate,” Dalton said.

Ultimately, NFID hopes to develop a playbook that people working on vaccination, including AIM and NACCHO members, can bring to communities to increase uptake. “The goal is to map attitudes, behaviors, and barriers to vaccination and put that information into the hands of state and local public officials and other immunization champions,” she said. “From there, they can create custom messages and resources for specific groups in communities across the U.S.”

Having partners on the project, she added, helps the pilot stay focused, and encourages putting the study’s findings to work. “The formula has to be one plus one is greater than two,” she said. “Working together, we can achieve more, improve outcomes, and lessen the burden of disease. That’s the shared mission that keeps us all going.”

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