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The Vaccines and Society Unit (VAS)

The Vaccines and Society Unit (VAS) is a multidisciplinary research centre hosted at the Oxford Vaccine Group. We seek to improve the understanding of the roles played by individuals and groups in their interaction with healthcare practice and medical research. A particular focus lies on studying attitudes and behaviour towards vaccination in society, policy, and media, across time and geographies.

About Us

The Vaccines and Society Unit (VAS) is a multidisciplinary research centre that aims to improve understanding of the roles played by individuals and groups in their interaction with healthcare practice and medical research.

The unit aims to produce theoretical and empirical research in social sciences and create a bridge to public health issues through policy advice, interventions, and public engagement. We draw on a variety of disciplines from sociology, history, behavioural science, health economics, and public policy to combine a wide set of tools and literatures. Further, being hosted by the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG), benefits from the unique opportunity to interact with vaccinologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, and clinicians.

A particular focus is on studying actors’ attitudes and behaviour towards vaccination in society, policy, and media, across time and geographies. More broadly, our interests are also in a wide range of public health topics, including issue prioritisation, disease history, and social mobilisation.

Our research unit runs regular research seminars, has ongoing collaborative writing groups on a wide range of topics, and frequently hosts visiting researchers.

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Latest News

August 3, 2023

Special Issue for Medical Education Online

When the vaccinators won’t get vaccinated: vaccine hesitancy, (mis)information & healthcare workers Guest editors: Prof Samantha Vanderslott, Associate Professor in Vaccines and Society, University of Oxford, UK Dr Sam Martin, Research Fellow in Digital Sociology, UCL, UK Dr Sally Frampton, Humanities and Healthcare Fellow, University of Oxford, UK Prof Patricia Kingori, Professor in Sociology and Global Health Ethics, University of Oxford, UK This proposed…
January 24, 2023

Childhood vaccine mandates: are they tackling the right problem?

Prof. Katie Attwell was our first visiting researcher to the VAS Unit during January. She gave several public talks, including a lunch time lecture on 'Childhood vaccine mandates: are they tackling the right problem?' at the Oxford Martin School.
January 20, 2023

Inaugural Vaccines and Society Workshop

Our inaugural workshop at the Oxford Martin School was well attended, with a range of speakers, chairs, and participants covering four main topics: Public Policy; Media and Social Media; Public Attitudes and Engagement; Healthcare and Hesitancy.
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The Team

Click a team member to read their bio

Unit Lead

Assoc Prof Samantha Vanderslott

Samantha Vanderslott leads the Vaccines and Society Unit (VAS), based in the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford. She is a health sociologist and Associate Professor working on topics at the intersection of health and society.

Samantha is an internationally recognised researcher with over 30 peer-reviewed publications (including in journals such as Social Science and Medicine, Lancet Public Health, BMJ Global health, and Sociology of Health and Illness). She has given policy advice to various governments and international bodies, and frequently appears on media discussing public health issues.

Her research currently focuses on public attitudes and decisions on vaccination, particularly in relation to pro-vaccination behaviours and vaccine acceptance. Prior, she worked on the study of neglect in attention on public health issues, summarised in her book Attention and Responsibility in Global Health: The Currency of Neglect, for which she conducted field work in Brazil and China.

She primarily draws on Science and Technology Studies, Medical Anthropology, Public Policy, and Political Economy in her work. Samantha holds a PhD from UCL (University College London) and has held visiting positions at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Brocher Foundation in Geneva.

Research fellow

Dr Sam Martin

Sam Martin is an experienced Digital Sociologist and Digital Analyst with 10 years of expertise in using creative digital methods to analyse Big Social Data and Big Qualitative Data in the fields of digital epidemiology and digital global health.

She is research consultant and digital analytics lead at the Ethox Centre, based in the Big Data Institute at Oxford University, as well as the Oxford Vaccine Group – where she works with an international team of academics on Vaccine Hesitancy amongst healthcare workers, the world of Digital Misinformation, Disinformation and Revelatory Fakes.

She has also been an Alan Turing Research Fellow (Warwick affiliate), looking at the complexities and temporalities of Big Data, as well as Digital Analytics lead at the Vaccine Confidence Project (LSHTM), where she used machine learning and sentiment analysis to research the nuances of sentiment in vaccine confidence discourse across the global diaspora.

She is a research fellow on the John Fell-funded project  “Vaccine Hesitancy and online misinformation consumption and distribution among frontline healthcare workers”.

Senior Digital Advisor & DPhil Candidate

Kate Joynes-Burgess

Kate Joynes-Burgess is a Wellcome Trust scholar and doctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Programme on Democracy & Technology (DemTech) and OVG. Her research project deploys mixed methods—including digital ethnography, participant observation and content analysis—to explore the contextual influence of online misinformation upon vaccine hesitancy in the UK. Kate commenced her DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences after more than 15 years in digital and health communications, most recently as European managing director of digital at global agency, Burson Cohn & Wolfe, which she continues to serve as a senior advisor on digital innovation and integrated media.

Adjunct Assistant Professor and DPhil candidate

Dr Jonathan Kantor

Jonathan is a clinical epidemiologist, micrographic surgeon, and dermatologist, with a strong interest in health outcomes, instrument development, and behavioral epidemiology. He is editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology International, published by Elsevier, and has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Jonathan is also the author/ editor of four textbooks published by McGraw-Hill and a two-time recipient of the AAD Presidential Citation. He is passionate about global health and developing robust and valid instruments to better study some of the most fundamental questions in public health, including better delineating patient, public, and other stakeholder attitudes and beliefs. His interdisciplinary work at Oxford centres on developing instruments to assess public acceptance of alternatives to traditional needle and syringe-based vaccination in order to explore creative workarounds to the challenges of vaccine hesitancy.

Research assistant

Noémie Déom

Noémie Déom is an anthropologist interested in experimental care, the use of emerging technologies in health care, and patient/health care providers relationships. She previously received a MSc in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, and an MSc in linguistics from the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. She spent several years teaching in France,  Switzerland, Australia, and Hong Kong. She is a research assistant on the John Fell-funded project  “Vaccine Hesitancy and online misinformation consumption and distribution among frontline healthcare workers”.

Research assistant

Sarah Spellman

Sarah has recently completed a MPhil in Medical Anthropology, with training in qualitative methods including interviewing. She conducted semi-structured interviews with healthcare workers and academics involved in clinical trials to assess the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Sarah will be expanding this original research into a DPhil, beginning this year, on interview protocols for a trial exploring a new treatment for major depressive disorder.

Immunisation Nurse Specialist

Karen Ford

Karen Ford joined OVG over a decade ago. Her current role is Immunisation Specialist and Senior Research Nurse with responsibility for running immunisation training and education programmes.

Previously roles within OVG include immunisation advisor, practice educator and paediatric research nurse. She has several peer-reviewed publications. In 1996 she completed her paediatric nursing training and bachelor of nursing degree at Southampton University.

She completed her Master’s in Public Health at Oxford Brookes University in 2006 and a Post Graduate Certificate in Medical Education in 2016 at the University of Bedfordshire. Before joining OVG she worked within acute paediatrics and neonates for 6 years in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Communications Officer

Liaquat (Lucky) Khan

Working as a Communications Officer, Lucky manages all Oxford Vaccine Group communications.

This includes planning and implementing social media campaigns and strategy, to website management, development and design as well as providing communications support within the University of Oxford.

He is responsible for marketing and promoting major studies with the group, working closely with the research team to determine their needs, he leads and oversees all aspects of research related event planning and management, including internal and external events.

Vaccine Knowledge & Public Engagement Manager

Charlie Firth

Charlie is a Vaccine Knowledge and Public Engagement Manager for the Oxford Vaccine Group (OVG) and Vaccine Knowledge Project (VKP).  He has strategic oversight of the VKP with the aim of expanding the VKP in the UK and globally, as well as working to produce a range of complex scientific communications materials that are backed up by the latest psychological research into vaccine decision-making for varying audiences. The aim of these is to target vaccine hesitant groups online and in-person through community engagement.

His day to day responsibilities include developing and delivering evidence-supported communication and public engagement strategies; overseeing the production of materials for vaccine knowledge and vaccine awareness campaigns; identifying and engaging stakeholders and collaborators; supporting applications for research, funding and grants; and analysing and evaluating current communications activities to inform future strategies.

Research Associates & Academic Visitors

Key Collaborations