The European Vaccine Initiative (EVI), working with VACCELERATE partners, published findings of an “Inventory and gap analysis report of existing public outreach material”. This was developed as part of the VACCELERATE project in the Journal of Science Communication (JCOM).
What is VACCELERATE?
Funded by Horizon 2020 VACCELERATE is an EU-wide vaccine trial network. It is part of the European Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) Incubator Programme. Led by the University of Cologne, it was launched in January 2020 and will last for 3 years. According to EVI it “constitutes the rapid response single entry-point to stakeholders from ppublic health authorities to vaccine developers”. The aim is “to address respective needs and kick-start specifically Phase II and III vaccine trials”. Furthermore, it hopes to “enable faster evaluation and confirmation of experimental vaccination effects” without compromising the clinical code of conduct.
“VACCELERATE provides expertise, services, resources, and solutions to help accelerate current and future development programmes, as well as market approvals for innovative vaccines and vaccine plans”.
What is the inventory?
EVI created an inventory of information about Covid-19 vaccine trials by searching online “regional, national, and European official sources”. The emphasis is on identifying “gaps in informational and educational material for underserved groups”. With 2545 entries for a range of media, from 38 countries and multilateral organisations, it was categorised by topic, media, provenance, language, and target audience. The collection of material took place between May and July 2021.
Results and revelations
“Limited online information”
EVI suggests that a “modest” 2.51% of the material collected addressed Covid-19 vaccine trials. Furthermore, this was concentrated in 4 languages: English, French, German, and Czech.
“needs and demographics”
EVI remarks that although “elderly” is a highly affected group, only 0.51% of online materials targeted the group. Perhaps this is due to a perceived absence of elderly audience members online, with further material provided elsewhere. However, EVI finds this lack of material to be a “major and unexpected gap”. Additionally, under half of the countries surveyed produced materials targeting children.
Another demographic of interest was immigrants (legal or illegal), migrants, and refugees. The second largest target group, after general public, they were targeted in 10.88% of the materials collected. This high number was created by 4 countries: Norway, UK, Switzerland, and Greece, as well as EU-wide organisations. Noticeably absent among analysed groups were “sex workers, persons experiencing homelessness, and religious/ethnic groups”.
“Overall, online outreach information does not significantly target underserved communities”.
The study concludes that “adequate online communication” about vaccine trials was “lacking” across Europe, particularly for “under-represented groups”. It is worth noting that they did “not find any association between vaccination rates in the general population and the information made available online by official sources”. However, it may exist in “specific population groups”.
The authors suggest that “concerted efforts” must be pursued to ensure target audiences receive sufficient information. As we discuss in our article on maternal immunisation, key areas of the general public “tend to be underrepresented in clinical research at large”. Their inclusion in research as well as information distribution will be essential to “sustainable public health capacities”.
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