GVSU anthropologists help create graphics that promote COVID-19 vaccine awareness

Anthropologists are helping fine-tune messaging to West Michigan residents who remain hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

They helped create graphics that promote vaccine awareness by addressing positives such as decreasing variants, reducing the number of quarantines, and protecting those who cannot get a vaccine, such as young children. 

The project is a partnership between Vaccinate West Michigan and Grand Valley State University’s Anthropology Department.

GVSU study

The graphics are based on insights learned through an ethnographic study comprising open-ended interviews with adults in West Michigan who are vaccine-hesitant, as well as those who were originally hesitant but changed their minds. 

Principal investigator Kristin Hedges, Ph.D., GVSU assistant professor of anthropology, has been leading the study. She has been guiding undergraduate research assistants Maggie Wilson, an anthropology student, and Donovan Fustero-Lopez, a graphic design student. 

Hedges says a better understanding of perspectives, concerns, and factors influencing vaccine confidence creates better messaging to answer questions and concerns from the public. 

Decades-long study

“Vaccination campaigns have always been a project of public cooperation. A vaccine can only be as effective as the public willingness to participate and community access to the resource. Anthropologists have been studying the range of vaccine hesitancy for decades. A large focal point that has come out of the research is the multiple influencing factors that impact a person’s perspectives and acceptance of vaccines,” says Hedges. 

Vaccines are the best and safest tool to end this crisis, adds Dr. Adam London, administrative health officer of the Kent County Health Department. 

“We desperately need those who are eligible to get their vaccines, especially in light of school resuming in the next month. Don’t wait. Don’t put it off,” London says. 

The value of cooperation

The project shows the value of regional cooperation, says Marcia Mansaray, deputy health administrator in Ottawa County.

“Protecting the public’s health is a job that is too big for any single organization, and even more so in a pandemic. When health care, nonprofit, academic, and public health organizations collaborate and share their expertise, much more can be accomplished, and the end result means more to their communities,” Mansaray says. 

Several Vaccinate West Michigan collaborating organizations will be sharing the graphics on their social media sites to encourage vaccination, especially with increasing delta variant cases and the approaching new school year. 

Vaccinate West Michigan is making the graphics — available in English and Spanish — available for anyone to use and share. 


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.