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UMD Joins CommuniVax Rapid Research Coalition to Engage Communities in an Equitable COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

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CommuniVax is a national alliance of social scientists, public health experts, and community advocates who seek lasting solutions to a serious problem: in the United States, historically underserved Black, Indigenous, and Latino populations have endured negative health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic at tragic and disproportionate rates. While these communities could benefit greatly from safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, longstanding biases and barriers hinder their access to and acceptance of vaccination.

The University of Maryland School of Public Health has joined CommuniVax, a new research coalition funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to strengthen the community’s role and involvement in an equitable vaccination campaign. 

The CommuniVax coalition is led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Department of Anthropology at Texas State University. They are working with five local research teams, a national expert working group, and a network of national associations representing stakeholders on both sides of vaccination—that is, system operators and beneficiaries. Comprised of social scientists, public health authorities, and community leaders, the teams have established relationships within the communities where they will work. 

The University of Maryland team, led by Professors Sandra C. Quinn and Stephen B. Thomas, with the Maryland Center for Health Equity, is engaging communities with whom they partner throughout Prince George’s County, Maryland. Four other teams across the United States are based in San Diego, CA; Southeastern Idaho; Baltimore City, MD; and Tuscaloosa, AL. 

The coalition will conduct rapid ethnographic research related to COVID-19 vaccination among historically underserved communities of color in the United States. Local research teams will listen to community members and work with them to develop suggestions on how to strengthen COVID-19 vaccine delivery and communication strategies. The coalition will synthesize and disseminate community viewpoints to national stakeholders to develop a more equitable and effective vaccination effort, with an enduring impact on public trust. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color in the United States. Across the country, COVID-19 infection and mortality rates are highest in non-white groups, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latino/Latinx populations. The pandemic continues to exacerbate systemic factors that drive long-standing health inequities among communities of color. The forthcoming vaccine(s) can help mitigate COVID-19 transmission and burden, but hard-hit communities must have an active role in the vaccination campaign. 

“By understanding the concerns and desires of people of color and the constraints they experience, and by supporting them to take charge of their hometown’s vaccination responses, this project has the potential to increase vaccination rates and decrease the health, economic, and social effects of the pandemic,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, PhD, a medical anthropologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.  

CommuniVax has received a $2 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to fund this vital research. A key partner is the Association of Immunization Managers, who represent public health professionals working in the United States and territories to prevent and control vaccine-preventable deaths in their communities.


About the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Maryland Center for Health Equity 

The University of Maryland School of Public Health is dedicated to promoting and protecting health and well-being through leadership and collaboration in interdisciplinary education, research, practice and public policy.  With nearly 3,000 students across our undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs, we are educating the next generation of public health leaders who are committed to finding new and better ways to promote health, prevent disease, eliminate disparities and prolong active, high-quality lives for all Marylanders. Learn more:

The Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE), based in the UMD School of Public Health, leads research and intervention programs focused on eliminating racial and ethnic minority disparities in health. The center engages communities in this effort to promote health equity, develop promising solutions for Marylanders and facilitate action for change in the structural determinants of health in Maryland.

About the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to protect people from epidemics and disasters and build resilient communities through innovative scholarship, engagement, and research that strengthens the organizations, systems, policies, and programs essential to preventing and responding to public health crises. The Center is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is located in Baltimore, MD.


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  • CommuniVax: A Coalition to Strengthen the Community’s Involvement in an Equitable Vaccination Rollout
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