On 9 November 2022, RIVER-EU held its first in person General Assembly, almost 1.5 years after the launch of the project. Project partners and several Advisory Board members met in Berlin to review the work carried out to date, as well as to consult each other on upcoming project activities. The RIVER-EU project coordinators, Danielle Jansen and Hanneke Vervoort, UMCG, chaired the meeting. This article provides a comprehensive summary of the most important updates shared during the General Assembly.
Prof. Michael Edelstein, BIU, Deputy Project Leader, presented four deliverables that were produced in the first 15 months of the project as part of Work Package 2 (WP2, “Evidence Collection”). The main findings from this work package provide a comprehensive overview on barriers and enablers to vaccination for each of the selected underserved groups. This information will support the selection of health system barriers to be addressed with tailored interventions. In his concluding remarks, Prof. Edelstein summarized findings, for instance, noting that many health system barriers are generic, not specific to any of the groups in society. However, they have the greatest effect on vulnerable groups (e.g., limited clinic hours). Short articles will be made available throughout the first half of 2023 to offer insights from WP2’s work, in anticipation of scientific publications.
D2.1: A systematic review of the literature on barriers and enablers to vaccination uptake among underserved groups in Europe.
The search strategy combined the following concepts: population age (children and young people), geography (the European region), population group (underserved communities) and type of barriers and enablers (health systems focused).
D2.2: Qualitative studies describing barriers and enablers to vaccination for each of the selected underserved groups:
- The migrant and refugee community in Greece (with a focus on MMR and HPV vaccines)
- Turkish and Moroccan adolescent females in the Netherlands (focus on HPV)
- The Ukrainian migrant community in Poland (focus on MMR and HPV)
- The Roma community in Slovakia (focus on HPV)
D2.3: Qualitative studies describing barriers and enablers to vaccination for each of the three underserved communities with uncommonly high vaccine uptake:
- The Somali Community in Finland
- The Arab community in Israel
- The Bangladeshi community in the United Kingdom (specifically in East London)
D2.4: A realist review to identify interventions that improve vaccine uptake among underserved groups.
This review considered how and why complex social interventions work in certain situations, rather than assume they either do or do not work at all. One of the components of the review explored the situational factors that enable interventions to have a positive impact. This information will enable the development, implementation and evaluation of tailored interventions within the project.
Lead researcher Tamara Schloemer, with the support of Henriette Hecht at the University of Maastricht, presented work to-date from Work Package 3 (WP3, “Development or adjustment of tailored interventions”). Specifically, they showed the results from the identification and pre selection of promising HPV vaccination interventions that could be transferred within RIVER-EU’s target communities. Tamara explained the methodological framework used to assess the interventions and their potential for transfer. In addition, Dr. Janine de Zeeuw, a researcher at UMCG, gave an overview of the matrix that will be developed per intervention, which includes intervention objectives and the barriers and facilitators to be influenced.
Pania Karnaki, Head of the Department of European and International Projects at Prolepsis, presented the plans for Work Package 4 (WP4, “Implementation and evaluation of tailored interventions”). The work will begin in April 2023 by developing implementation plans which include monitoring and evaluations plans. In-country project partners in Poland, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Greece should be ready to start the implementation of selected interventions to increase vaccine uptake at the end of 2023.
Complementary to the other project activities, Barbara Rath, Chair of the Vaccine Safety Initiative (ViVI) presented on the progress of Work Package 6 (WP6, “Strengthening Education and Knowledge on Immunisation (SEKI)”). The SEKI platform will provide training material for health professionals in Europe, including materials identified and developed through the RIVER-EU project. Currently it includes a list of suggested training courses on both general and specific vaccination topics (e.g., COVID-19, adolescent immunisation, vaccine safety, pharmacy-based vaccine administration and so on). As the SEKI platform grows – supported in part by findings from the RIVER-EU project – it will invite users to search for training courses near their home and pre-register, free of charge, for SEKI credits.
During the meeting partners agreed on several follow up meetings for the start of the year and went on to deliver two workshops and two posters at the subsequent European Public Health Conference, held from 10-12 November in Berlin.