Carnegie Mellon University
January 12, 2022

Join Us for Dietrich Deep Dives: Public Health in a Free Society

Abby Simmons

Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is excited to launch the second series of "Dietrich Deep Dives," engaging, in-depth presentations about critical political and societal issues through the lens of the humanities, social sciences and related fields. The 2021-2022 series focuses on “Public Health in a Free Society” and examines issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conflicting Attitudes Toward Research with Humans
Featuring Alex John London
Clara L. West Professor of Ethics and Philosophy
Director, Center for Ethics and Policy
4:30–5:30 p.m. ET
Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed Americans’ conflicting attitudes about biomedical research with humans. For some, research is viewed as an activity associated with exploitation, danger and risk. For others, research is seen as a necessary impediment to accessing potentially lifesaving medicines, while still others treat it as an avenue through which a few intrepid volunteers might expose themselves to risk in hopes of ending the pandemic. In this event, Alex John London explores some of the historical and conceptual origins of these conflicting attitudes. He discusses how these attitudes reflect unresolved tensions about the role of research in a democratic society and an implicit fear that linking research too closely to social purposes will encourage harmful or abusive practices. London argues for a view of research as a democratic activity that plays a unique and fundamental role in a just society.

Increasing Vaccination Rates with Text Nudges
Featuring Silvia Saccardo
Assistant Professor, Department of Social and Decision Sciences
4:30–5:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that unvaccinated individuals are at a significantly higher risk of testing positive and dying from COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. Safety concerns, fear and misinformation have fueled vaccine hesitancy, although forgetfulness and procrastination also have been cited as barriers. In this second Deep Dive, behavioral economist Silvia Saccardo will show how simple, inexpensive text messages have successfully nudged individuals to schedule and show up for their vaccination appointments. Working with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles in early 2021, Saccardo found messages that emphasized vaccine accessibility and included “ownership” language were the most effective type of reminder study participants received.

Identifying Groups Hesitant About the COVID-19 Vaccine
Featuring Robin Mejia
Assistant Research Professor, Statistics & Data Science
Director of the Statistics and Human Rights Program, Center for Human Rights Science
4:30–5:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Understanding the drivers of vaccine hesitancy is crucial to developing public health campaigns to help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Robin Mejia and colleagues in CMU’s Department of Statistics & Data Science teamed up with an epidemiologist at University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health to study vaccine hesitancy between January and May 2021, using the COVID-19 Trends and Impact Surveys (CTIS), a massive daily survey of U.S. adults run by the Delphi Group at CMU with the Facebook Data for Good group. During this early period of vaccine availability, the researchers found hesitancy among U.S. adults decreased by one third, but that patterns varied considerably by education level, race, occupation and other categories. Further, respondents indicated a range of reasons for COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, with important policy implications. In this third Deep Dive, Mejia will discuss the findings of this research project.