UCL Research


Tackling Vaccine Hesitancy in Turkey

Tackling vaccine hesitancy in Turkey and identifying trusted health promotion messages.

PIs: Dr Gül Deniz Salalı and Mete Sefa Uysal
UCL Department: Department of Anthropology
Partner countries: Turkey
Funders: GCRF (internal)

Vaccines on table

Project description

Achieving widespread immunity to infections is a significant public health challenge. The safest way to achieve widespread immunity is through vaccinations. In recent years, however, vaccine hesitancy increased globally and is listed as one of the top ten threats to global health in 2019 by World Health Organization (WHO).

This project aims to tackle the urgent issue of vaccine hesitancy in Turkey. In May 2020 a survey was conducted with over 5000 UK and Turkish participants. The findings revealed the magnitude of the problem: participants in Turkey had the lowest trust in vaccines and COVID-19 vaccine acceptance.

In January 2021, the project received GCRF funding (£64,345.59) to determine the causes of vaccine hesitancy across countries, with a special focus on Turkey. Informed by evolutionary and social psychology theories, the project is looking at the individual and country-level determinants of vaccine hesitancy, as well as the effectiveness of vaccination messages from the Turkish Health Minister.

    Collaborations and partnerships in LMICs

    Four research assistants from Turkish institutions were recruited based on their relevant research experience and skills, who co-designed the project methods, public engagement events, and co-authored the research papers.

    Interviews with vaccine hesitant participants involved participant-led design of vaccine promotion messages.

    An online workshop to disseminate the projects results involved experts in virology, social psychology, molecular biology (all keen science communicators on Twitter) from respected Turkish research institutes and a doctor from Turkish Medical Association.

    The benefits and impacts of the project activities to LMICs

    A key aim of the project was to co-create public health messaging guidance for Turkey on how to design effective vaccination/health promotion messages.

    The project results, original blogs, presentations and resources on vaccines were shared via the project website, YouTube channel and radio program, Acik Radyo. In addition, an online workshop was held to disseminate the projects findings, where healthcare workers (members of Turkish Medical Association), social and natural scientists addressed audiences’ questions on COVID-19 vaccines.

    The project findings and associated data were also disseminated through the following peer-reviewed and pre-print papers:

    Specific outputs include:

    • Detailed analyses and reporting of the underlying factors of vaccine hesitancy in Turkey
    • Contributing to the development of effective vaccine uptake messages and better health policies in Turkey
    • Public engagement activities to discuss concerns about vaccines, involving Turkish experts to provide information on COVID-19 vaccines
    • Career development opportunities for young Turkish researchers.

    It is hoped that the project will contribute to reduced economic burden resulting from COVID-19 (e.g. treatment costs, loss of employment, lockdowns) by increasing vaccine uptake.