The Past, Present and Future of Vaccine Hesitancy in South Africa and the UK

The ‘Infecting Minds’ project brings together a team in the UK and South Africa to study vaccine hesitancy. We are interested in understanding barriers to vaccination, and learning how beliefs and behaviours around vaccines develop, persist and spread in different settings.

Our team is a diverse group of professionals including historians, theologians, social scientists, science communicators, teachers, laboratory scientists and clinical doctors. We bring different backgrounds, experience and insights, recogising that vaccine hesitancy is a complex issue with many dimensions.

Our project has three main aims:

  1. We have set out to gather information about the history of vaccination, and the narratives that have developed around this, with a particular interest in comparing European and African stories.

  1. We are collecting information through interviews and group discussions with people in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, to develop an understanding of their perspectives on vaccination, and insights into the background and origins of vaccine hesitancy.

  1. We are establishing workshops with school students in the UK and South Africa, promoting open conversations about their experiences and narratives, and offering new ways to think about the past, present and future of vaccination. Developing links between schools in South Africa and the UK, will allow the students to connect, exploring shared experiences but also learning from others with different perspectives.

The project journey will be captured by a film crew, giving us the opportunity to share learning with a wide audience. Material that we gather will be collated by our expert team and discussed with others working in this field. We will use our outputs to develop better ways to engage people in open dialogue about vaccination, to understand and tackle sources of misinformation, and to plan further research.

Funders and partners

Our UK team is based at the University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute in London. Our South Africa team is based at the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) in Durban. We have funding from the Wellcome Interdisciplinary Support Fund and Oxford University John Fell Fund. We have developed a working partnership with Cheney School in Oxford, and are developing connections with schools and a museum in KwaZulu-Natal through the AHRI network.


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