The Vaccines and Society Unit (VAS)
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.
Childhood vaccine mandates: are they tackling the right problem?
Claas Kirchhelle is a Lecturer in the History of Medicine at University College Dublin and Martin Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Martin School. His interdisciplinary research combines historical and biological approaches to analyse the global history of infectious diseases and the 20th century modification of our microbial environment. Over the years, his research in Oxford has focused on the global history of antibiotic use, resistance, and regulation and the implications of history for antibiotic governance. Claas has curated award-winning exhibitions on the history of antibiotics (‘Back from the Dead’, 2016-2017). Sponsored by a Wellcome Trust University Award, his new research projects at UCD explore the history of animal welfare science as well as the global history of typhoid, epidemiological surveillance, and microbial collections. Claas is a research associate at OVG and Co-PI on “Typhoid, Cockles, and Terrorism”.
Patricia Kingori is a sociologist whose primary expertise lies in exploring the everyday ethical experiences of frontline workers in global health. Her research interests intersect the sociology of science and medicine, STS, bioethics and she has extensive experience of undertaking critical examinations of ethics in practice in different countries in Africa and South East Asia. This work has been supported through various funders, including the Wellcome Trust and the Grand Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Patricia is a PI on the John Fell-funded project “Vaccine Hesitancy and online misinformation consumption and distribution among frontline healthcare workers”.
Sally Frampton is a historian of medicine and healthcare, primarily working on Britain from 1750 onwards. She has a long-standing interest in the history of surgery and has written extensively on surgical risk and innovation. Her current research explores the global development of medical journalism as a specialist form of writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how it has shaped the meaning of medicine. She also writes about the history of first aid and how it became a cultural phenomenon in Victorian Britain. As Humanities and Healthcare Fellow she works on fostering greater interdisciplinary collaboration at the University between humanities researchers and the Medical Sciences Division, including through the ‘Infecting Minds’ project. Sally is a Co-I on the John Fell-funded project “Vaccine Hesitancy and online misinformation consumption and distribution among frontline healthcare workers”.
Carly Collier is a postdoctoral research associate at University College Dublin and a researcher on Typhoid, Cockles, and Terrorism: The Turbulent History of Anglo-Irish Typhoid Control. Her background is in the visual arts and material culture (PhD Art History, University of Warwick 2014); she was previously, first, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings (2016-2020) and then Assistant Curator of Photographs (2021-2022) at Royal Collection Trust where she curated the touring exhibition Victoria & Albert: Our Lives in Watercolour (2019-21) in commemoration of the bicentenary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She has published widely on subjects including British taste and art collecting in the nineteenth century and the early use of photography as an art historical tool.
Katie Attwell is an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow, senior lecturer and academic researcher at the University of Western Australia (UWA) School of Social Sciences. She specialises in mandatory vaccination policy across Australia, Europe and The United States of America, researching the tactics their governments use to motivate people to vaccinate, how policies make it to the agenda, how they are designed, how they differ, and how they work.
Dr Tonia Thomas joined the Oxford Vaccine Group in 2019 as Vaccine Knowledge Project Manager, and since February 2022 she supports the project as an academic visitor.
She has a specific interest in vaccine delivery in humanitarian settings. She maintained the Vaccine Knowledge Project website and led the communications strategy for vaccine awareness at Oxford Vaccine Group. She has undertaken quantitative and qualitative research to understand vaccine attitudes and to identify the most effective communication tools for vaccination campaigns.
She has been actively engaged with the public, health professionals, and key stakeholders to share knowledge on vaccine development and vaccine attitudes and collaborated with clinical investigators and social science researchers to ensure the work utilises the most relevant evidence-based approaches.
She has also led the Patient and Public Involvement Advisory Group at OVG, including the development of the group’s PPI Framework.
Austin Stevenson is a philosophical theologian who is interested in the way that philosophical ideas interact with religious beliefs to impact contemporary society.
He is a Junior Research Fellow in Religion and the Frontier Challenges at Pembroke College, Oxford. His current research concerns vaccine attitudes and religion, particularly the ways that theological concepts and methods can aid in understanding, characterizing, and impacting vaccine attitudes.
Austin holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and is currently a visiting lecturer at London School of Theology and the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.
Working in the field of emerging biotherapeutics and vaccines in Canada, Europe and Africa, medical anthropologist Janice Graham studies safety, efficacy, and trust in the construction and legitimization of evidence for clinical research and regulatory practice. Her research draws upon science and technology studies, health technology assessment and bioethics. She has written over 100 publications, 28 technical reports, 300 scholarly papers and presented evidence to the Science Policy Directorate, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Parliament of Canada, World Health Organization, and United Nations on open data, public health, regulatory practice and epidemic emergency response.