Global Impact, on Behalf of the Advancing Health Online Initiative (AHO), Announces Collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance at the Concordia Annual Summit



New York, New York, Sept. 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Alongside the 78th United Nations General Assembly, Global Impact as fiscal sponsor for the Advancing Health Online Initiative (AHO), announced an innovative collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, centered around VaxSocial, an initiative supporting country-driven projects that leverage social media and behavioral science to build confidence around routine immunizations.

Advancing Health Online (AHO), a fiscally sponsored project of Global Impact, is an initiative launched and financially supported by Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ USA (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) and Meta in June 2021 to advance public understanding of how social media can be utilized to better understand and increase the health and resiliency of communities around the world by bringing actors together from technology, health, global development, and the academic sector. AHO’s goal is to support effective integration of social media as a core component of social behavior change (SBC) to improve health outcomes. To achieve this, AHO collaborates with organizations working at the intersection of technology, global health, and SBC.

Vaccine hesitancy long precedes the lack of confidence witnessed globally during the COVID-19 pandemic and may stem from distrust in the vaccine provider and medical system. This had led to low vaccination uptake with potentially life-threatening consequences. However, the global pandemic also exposed the need for new ways of collaborating across health and technological sectors to address this complex issue and strengthen the resiliency of communities. AHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance recognized the opportunity to test innovative, promising, and multi-disciplinary approaches that leverage social media to drive behavior change, and unite diverse stakeholders, including the private sector.

“With more and more communities worldwide relying on social media and online platforms to seek health information, it has the potential to play an increasingly valuable role in global health,” said Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, Chief Resource Mobilization and Growth Officer. “This collaboration with AHO and the launch of VaxSocial will drive private sector expertise and resources to Gavi-implementing countries in a way that can transform the role of social media in improving immunization outcomes.

On September 19, 2023, Global Impact on behalf of AHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, announced that they are joining forces to launch VaxSocial, a new initiative designed to drive new learning on how to build vaccine confidence through digital interventions such as social media. VaxSocial will be implemented in three primary focus countries – India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. The country selection was informed by unmet public health needs, levels of social media use, and policy alignment, and the projects will build upon ongoing work, and lessons learned from past efforts.

“We are excited to collaborate with Gavi in launching VaxSocial, a new effort under the Advancing Health Online (AHO) initiative to support country-driven investments that leverage the use of social media,” said Drew Otoo, President, Global Vaccines at Merck. “With the increasing role of social media platforms as a conduit for health information, VaxSocial will generate evidence and share insights with the global health community to enable online activity to influence positive offline health behaviors.”

AHO and Gavi recognize that while extensive research has been undertaken to understand vaccine hesitancy and social behaviors, more efforts are needed to understand how social media can most effectively be implemented to promote behavior change for health, in a cost-effective and equitable way. VaxSocial seeks to fill this gap to drive scale and replicability in approach across geographies.

“We’ve seen the role online platforms can play to help improve global health outcomes, such as scaling and personalizing content globally at a low cost,” said Lu’chen Foster, Senior Director of Social Impact Partnerships at Meta. “We’re committed to deliver on AHO’s mission through our collaboration with Gavi to support innovative, promising, and multi-disciplinary approaches that leverage social media to empower and educate populations to make positive health choices around vaccination.”

Merck and Meta, the funders of AHO, are each committing $US 3M which will be matched by the Gavi Matching Fund to launch VaxSocial by supporting innovative, promising, and multi-disciplinary approaches that leverage social media to empower and educate populations to make positive health choices around vaccination. VaxSocial will launch a call for proposals in several Gavi-supported countries including India, Nigeria, and Indonesia.