The VAX-TRUST consortium at the 19th Biennial European Society for Health and Medical Sociology Conference: Shaping the future of the post-pandemic society

This is a news post written by Esther Lermytte from Ghent Universtiy (UGent). Pictures by UGent team.

From the 25th until the 27th of August, scholars and researchers in the field of health sociology gathered in the idyllic city of Forli, Italy, for the 19th European Society for Health and Medical Sociology (ESHMS) conference. The topic “Shaping the future of the post-pandemic society”, now more relevant than ever, challenged the attending researchers to employ their sociological imagination to contribute to the conference’s overarching question: “In the post-pandemic context, what can the sociology of health offer in terms of analysis, research perspectives, and operational proposals?”

Members of the VAX-TRUST consortium, namely Dino Numerato from Charles University, Piet Bracke, Melissa Ceuterick and Esther Lermytte from Ghent University, Ana Patrícia Hilario from ICS-ULisboa and Alice Scavarda from the University of Turin attended the conference. The attendees present findings of the VAX-TRUST project’s fourth Work Package, i.e., results of the qualitative study on vaccine hesitancy in Europe.

In anticipation of their presentations, all researchers were invited to more than 40 thematic sessions divided into eight parallel sessions, alternated with three interesting plenary sessions offering even more food for thought.

Dino Numerato (CUNI) giving a talk at the ESHMS conference

Esther Lermytte (UGent), the author of this text, presenting at the ESHMS conference

The VAX-TRUST researchers were invited to present in the Vaccination Hesitancy session. While rooted in the same methodological framework, their presentations introduced the project’s different perspectives on the topic of vaccination hesitancy, in line with the multidimensionality of the topic itself. The project setup was first introduced by Dino Numerato, who provided insights into his research on “Healthcare professionals, vaccination and the social construction of trust” in the Czech context. This presentation highlighted the unexplored area of the role of medical specialists concerning vaccination.

In consonance with Dino’s presentation, the importance of healthcare professionals was confirmed by the presentation of Esther Lermytte on the topic of “Healthcare professionals’ perspectives on coping with parental childhood vaccine hesitancy” in Flanders. Her presentation explored vaccine hesitancy and hierarchies in vaccine importance amongst healthcare professionals and how this affects their interactions with parents.

Ana Patrícia Hilario and Alice Scavarda completed the VAX-TRUST trilogy with their presentation on the “Methodological and practical pitfalls in recruiting vaccine-hesitant parents in Europe: insights from VAX-TRUST research project”. By outlining the challenges and opportunities encountered in the recruitment of vaccine-hesitant parents in the VAX-TRUST project, this presentation laid a sound foundation for other researchers interested in conducting qualitative studies involving hard-to-reach groups.

Last but not least, the insights from the VAX-TRUST presentations were complemented by the presentation of Ekaterina Borozdina (European University at St. Petersburg) on “Infrastructure of distrust: vaccination hesitancy among Russian parents”. Taking into account the specificities of the Covid-19 pandemic, this presentation introduced us to childhood vaccine hesitancy in Russia and how childhood vaccine hesitancy is interlinked with an infrastructure of distrust through institutions, organizations, experts, and Internet resources. The plenary discussion that followed the four presentations sparked ideas amongst all scholars on how to proceed with their respective research on vaccine hesitancy.

Ana Patrícia Hilario (ICS-ULisboa) and Alice Scavarda (UNITO) also gave a session at the ESHMS conference

After an interesting, intense, and pleasant three-day conference, all researchers returned home satisfied with the VAX-TRUST encounter, the thought-provoking presentations, and the enjoyable social activities. With regard to the overarching research question, the 19th ESHMS conference emphasized that the sociology of health and all its perspectives in terms of analysis, research perspectives, and operational proposals, lie at the very center of future health research in the post-pandemic society.