Pharmacy Faculty to Launch Yearlong Vaccine Literacy Program in Rochester

December 18, 2020

Three professors at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College will develop an inclusive, community-centered program, ROC Community Immunity, aimed at educating and counseling the Rochester community about vaccines and immunizations.

A patient receives an immunization.

Dr. Ramil Sapinoro, associate professor; Dr. Kelly Conn, assistant professor; and Dr. Amy Parkhill, associate professor, each bring expertise in health literacy, public health, cultural competency, and immunology and vaccinology to the project. As a team, they will launch a yearlong initiative to tackle false and misleading information and help improve confidence in vaccines, particularly among ethnically, racially, and socio-economically diverse populations. The program will be funded thanks to a $20,000 innovation scholarship award from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation. Fisher was one of only five schools of pharmacy to receive the competitive award funding.

The trio will direct the creation and distribution of videos, digital content, and social media-based materials that will educate individuals about the vital role vaccines play in protecting the community.

“The development of vaccines and immunization programs are one of the most successful life-saving public health campaigns administered, and incidents of vaccine-preventable diseases have decreased significantly over the last 50 years,” said Sapinoro. “Despite that decrease, pockets of misinformation continue to rise, leading to vaccine fear, mistrust, and hesitancy. We believe that engaging communities in transparent, straightforward conversations can foster confidence in vaccines.”

Parkhill added that the program will collaborate with several community pharmacies, nonprofit agencies, and health care centers—including Rochester Victory Alliance, Project Homeless Connect, Mary’s Place, and the Anthony Jordan Health Center—to leverage the trust and goodwill that exists between those organizations and the communities they serve.

Over the course of the year, the team aims to host four interactive “Community-Immunity Town Halls” held via Zoom and Facebook Live that will cover vaccine stigma, myths and misconceptions about vaccines, childhood immunizations, and adult immunizations.

“We hope that these live events will help remove barriers to health literacy by providing a comfortable space for community members to ask questions and as a result, eliminate misconceptions about immunizations,” said Conn.