Executive Education: Effective Ways to Increase Vaccination Rates


Past Event

Executive Education: Effective Ways to Increase Vaccination Rates

September 27, 2021 - October 1, 2021
10:00 AM - 12:15 PM
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Zoom Webinar, Registration required

For leaders, decision-makers, strategists and implementers of vaccination campaigns in Africa and the developing world.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for full recordings of each session.

In the face of the Delta and Delta Plus variants, the lack of available COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle- income countries pose a monumental problem. Less than 5% of Africans have received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, a percentage that lags a long way behind the world (32.9%) and far behind the United States (60.4%). As COVID-19 vaccine supply issues are slowly addressed, it is important to take steps to bolster public trust in vaccinations. In an IPSOS study 43% of Africans surveyed said they would definitely get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine. In the same study, the  primary reason for declining vaccines when they do become available was a lack of information about vaccines. In countries with vaccine surplus, many governments are moving forward with lotteries to attempt to boost vaccine uptake. Greatly concerning is that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration of standard childhood vaccines has declined. It is essential to address the reasons behind declining vaccination rates to find interventions to improve vaccine uptake for all diseases.

Download the full symposium program here.

This executive education symposium is supported by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia, the Program in Vaccine Education at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrtand.

Symposium Convenor: Dr. Wilmot James, Senior Research Scholar, ISERP Columbia University

Symposium Coordinator: Harlowe Wang, Program Coordinator, ISERP Columbia University (contact [email protected])

Daily topics and speaker list:

September 27 - Day 1: Current concerns with childhood vaccine uptake

Vaccination rates for many diseases have been stalling, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem by overwhelming healthcare workers and delaying non-emergency medical visits. From the United States to Africa, studies have shown that childhood vaccination has been disrupted by the pandemic. Vaccine uptake is an issue that extends far beyond COVID-19 vaccines and must be urgently addressed to ensure that preventable illness and death is mitigated.

Moderator: Dr. Shabir Madhi, University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Lecturer: Dr. Larry Stanberry, Columbia University, New York City, USA

Panelist: Ms. Simone Carter, UNICEF

Panelist: Dr. Tanimola M. Akande, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria

Panelist: Dr. Marc Grodman, Columbia University


September 28 - Day 2: Addressing practical barriers is the best way to increase vaccination rates

As demonstrated by the unacceptable vaccination rates across Africa, the greatest barriers to vaccination are those that are practical, such as a lack of supply. Other examples of practical barriers include long or arduous distances to clinics and onerous appointment booking systems. Removing practical barriers allows those who wish to get vaccinated – the majority of persons – to act on those motivations. Solutions to practical hurdles must be locally focused and context-specific to increase effectiveness.

Moderator: Dr. Martin Veller, University of the Witwatersrand

Lecturer: Ms. Amanda McClelland, Resolve to Save Lives

Panelist: Dr. Clare Cutland, University of the Witwatersrand

Panelist: Dr. Raji Tajudeen, Africa Centre for Disease Control, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Panelist: Dr. Ronald Whelan, Discovery Health


September 29 - Day 3: Vaccine hesitancy: what makes COVID-19 vaccines different?

In 2019, the WHO announced that vaccine hesitancy – an expression used to encompass a multitude of reasons for why a lack of vaccination occurs despite the availability of vaccines – was a top 10 threat to global health. As fears around COVID-19 vaccine safety coupled with fears around the rise of the anti-vax movement, vaccine hesitancy became a phrase that is used commonly by scientists and the public alike. Due to the immediate threat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is a notable issue worthy of addressing. It is important to focus on the "wait and see" group, made up of persons who wish to see vaccine safety and efficacy on others before they themselves get vaccinated.  Studies have shown that efforts to directly challenge those who are skeptical towards vaccines do not increase vaccination rates. Rather than concentrating on disputing misinformation, energy should be focused on amplifying positive and accurate vaccine content. 

Moderator: Dr. Anya Schiffrin, Columbia University

Lecturer: Dr. Peter Hotez, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA

Panelist: Dr. Sara Cooper, South Africa Medical Research Council/University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Panelist: Dr. Susan Rosenthal, Columbia University

Panelist: Dr. Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Pharmacare


September 30 - Day 4: Trusted voices must be used to relay social norms

Though there is variation internationally, current data suggests that recommendations from health workers carry the most weight in increasing vaccination rates. Simple adjustments in the language used to convey advice to patients can produce significant improvements in vaccination rates. Local norms and practices must always be taken into consideration in establishing efficacious communication that boosts vaccine uptake. For instance, community-level leaders may prove most effective in some cultures. 

Moderator: Dr. Wilmot James, Columbia University

Lecturer: Dr. Tariro Makadzange, Stanford University

Panelist: Dr. Janan Dietrich, University of the Witwatersrand

Panelist: Dr. Hassan Mohamed, Western Cape (South Africa) Department of Health

Panelist: Dr. Jonathan Strysko, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Botswana-Univ. of Pennsylvania Partnership (BUP)


October 1 - Day 5: Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandated? In what circumstance? What incentives should be used?

10:00am - 12:30pm ET | 4:00pm - 6:30pm CAT

Is it a violation of personal autonomy to require someone to receive a vaccination? As getting vaccinated protects society, is it within legal and ethical bounds to mandate that an employee or healthcare provider or student receives a vaccine? Are the COVID-19 vaccines different from other vaccines? Lastly, what incentives work (and what incentives are morally acceptable) in encouraging people to get vaccinated? 

Moderator: Dr. Philip LaRussa, Columbia University

Lecturer: Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, Columbia University

Panelist: Dr. Helen Rees, University of the Witwatersrand

Panelist: Dr. Keymanthri Moodley, University of Stellenbosch

Panelist: Mr. Halton Cheadle, [Emeritus] University of Cape Town

Closing Reflections:

Mr. Mark Heywood, Daily Maverick

Mr. Joshua Nott, Schmidt Futures

Download the full symposium program here.

Current concerns with childhood vaccine uptake
Addressing practical barriers is the best way to increase vaccination rates
Vaccine hesitancy: what makes COVID-19 vaccines different?
Trusted voices must be used to relay social norms
Should the COVID-19 vaccine be mandated? In what circumstance? What incentives should be used?

Contact Information

Harlowe Wang, ISERP Program Coordinator