Undergraduate Research Helped Meredith Mitigate Vaccine Hesitancy

Public health and biology major Kelsieanne Schmidt, ’21, conducted research on vaccine hesitancy among undergraduate students at Meredith.

“When I started this project in the fall of 2020, COVID-19 vaccines were projected to become available at the beginning of 2021,” said Schmidt. “At the time, there was very little known about college students’ acceptability of a vaccine. My goal was to create a study to further benefit the Meredith community by identifying and addressing any perceived barriers.”Kelsieanne Schmidt smiling at the camera.

After completing the research, Schmidt was tasked with presenting her findings to Meredith’s vaccine planning team. “This allowed us to take a deeper look at future steps Meredith could take to promote vaccine acceptance,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt’s findings were instrumental in the development of an educational webinar on COVID-19 vaccines that was made available to students, faculty and staff, and alumnae/i. Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Carolina Perez-Heydrich, Schidmt’s advisor and coordinator of the public health program, worked with faculty from the biology department to help produce the webinar.

“We highlighted the importance of vaccines for both individuals and the broader community, how vaccines work to help build protection against disease-causing agents, and how current mRNA vaccines were developed within a relatively short time frame,” said Perez-Heydrich.

The webinar also included a session where viewers could ask questions of the panelists. “Paneled by biology faculty, along with Director of Health Services Mary Johnson, ’07, and Director for Human Resources Pam Davis Galloway, we answered questions and addressed concerns surrounding some of the information others had read or heard about through social media regarding the vaccine,” said Perez-Heydrich.

Schmidt and Perez-Heydrich are continuing their research by conducting a survey to measure the effectiveness of the webinar. As they await results, the research they’ve already completed continues to aid the College in educating the community effectively as more vaccines become available. Also, the two are currently in the process of writing up Schmidt’s results into a manuscript for publication that can be more widely shared among college health and wellness professionals.

For Schmidt, the opportunity to conduct and present this research was a valuable experience in her career and further solidified her interest in public health. “I believe vaccine education is extremely beneficial because it allows students to increase their knowledge, form positive attitudes, and develop self-efficacy,” she said. “It is important for students to have the opportunity to make educated decisions about their health, and I am humbled to have made that possible for the Meredith community.”

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330