Vaccine Misinformation and Its Link to Vaccine Hesitancy and Uptake in Durham (2018-2019)


Vaccinations administered during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life are crucial for preventing a myriad of potentially deadly and debilitating infections such as polio, pertussis, measles, influenza and tetanus. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence on the benefits of vaccinations, pregnant women and parents of young children often refuse to accept, or choose to space out, vaccinations for themselves or their children. This phenomenon, termed vaccine hesitancy, is blamed for several vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the U.S., including the 2017 measles outbreak in a Somali community in Minnesota. In order to design effective behavior change interventions to mitigate vaccine hesitancy, we need to understand the role of misinformation in the development or promotion of vaccine hesitancy, as well as the subsequent decision to accept vaccines without delay.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project will study vaccine misinformation and its impact on vaccine hesitancy and uptake in Durham. Specifically, the project team will:

  • Conduct secondary data analysis of the coverage and timeliness of maternal and pediatric vaccines in Durham using the Duke Enterprise Data Unified Content Explorer (DEDUCE) database
  • Collect data on and assess the role of media and web-based information sources in shaping vaccine hesitancy concerns among pregnant women and new parents
  • Retrospectively evaluate the link between vaccine hesitancy and vaccination coverage/timeliness in a cohort of 100 parents who have children (ages 3-6 years) attending Duke Health clinics.

By carrying out these objectives, the team will measure the prevalence and distribution of vaccine hesitancy; elucidate the frequency and type of social media promoting vaccine hesitancy; develop or adapt methods to curate and analyze information sources; and analyze the association between vaccine hesitancy and vaccination uptake in pregnancy and early childhood.

Anticipated Outcomes

Presentation of findings to Duke community and/or members of North Carolina Immunization Advisory Board; abstracts submitted to conferences; manuscript(s) submitted to peer-reviewed journals; preliminary data for grant proposals


Fall 2018 – Fall 2019  

  • Fall 2018: Team-building activities; sub-teams begin weekly meetings and initiate activities related to project aims
  • Spring 2019: Sub-teams continue activities related to project aims
  • Fall 2019: Sub-teams continue activities related to project aims

Team Outcomes 

Findings from an Ongoing Parental Survey on Vaccine Hesitancy at Duke (poster by Bailey Patrick, Brooke Evans, Sarah Watkins, presented at Global Health Showcase, Duke University, November 4, 2019)

Vaccine Misinformation and Its Link to Vaccine Hesitancy and Uptake (poster by Bryanna Carpenter, Felicia Chen, Brooke Evans, Sujata Kishnani, Stephanie Mei, Celia Mizelle, Melissa Ross, Lauren Hart, Ashley Price, Ashwin Machanavajjhala, Lavanya Vasudevan, presented at Bass Connections Showcase, Duke University, April 17, 2019)

This Team in the News

The Many Faces of Vaccine Hesitancy

See related Data+ summer project, Vaccine Hesitancy and Uptake (2018).


Team Leaders

  • Ashwinkumar Machanavajjhala, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science
  • Geeta Swamy, School of Medicine-Obstetrics and Gynecology: Maternal Fetal Medicine
  • Lavanya Vasudevan, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health

/graduate Team Members

  • Bryanna Carpenter, Medicine MD Fourth Year
  • Brooke Evans, Medicine MD Fourth Year
  • Melissa Ross, Medicine MD Fourth Year
  • Jaclyn Latvis, Bachelors of Science - Nursing

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Cecelia Mizelle, Biology (BS)
  • Sarah Watkins, Psychology (BS)
  • Aditya Santoki, Chemistry (BS)
  • Bailey Patrick, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Shiyuan Mei, Computer Science (BS)
  • Sujata Kishnani, Biology (BS)
  • Felicia Chen, Computer Science (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Christina Makarushka, Duke Global Health Institute-Center for Health Policy
  • William Adair, Sanford School of Public Policy-DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
  • Truls Ostbye, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health
  • Ricky King II, Asthma, Allergy & Airway Center
  • Ashley Price, School of Medicine-Duke Personalized Health Care
  • Lauren Hart, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health: Family Medicine
  • Dennis Clements, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Infectious Diseases
  • Anthony Viera, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health
  • Emmanuel Walter, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Jun Yang, Arts & Sciences-Computer Science

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Hannah Spotts, Colgate University–Undergraduate Student