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Modelling vaccination patterns and clusters to tailoring public health policies (RDF23/HLS/NMH/Tomietto)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Prof Marco Tomietto, Prof Peter McMeekin  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Background and relevance: Vaccination hesitancy requires different approaches and methodologies to be addressed at the public health level. Despite the wide amount of evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing communicable diseases and in decreasing mortality and morbidity, vaccination hesitancy is still a major concern worldwide (Park et al., 2021; WHO, 2019). Vaccination uptake pitfalls are recurrent in the seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns and, recently, hesitancy is increasing both among healthcare workers and the general population (WHO, 2021; WHO, 2020; Karafillakis et al., 2016). Public health policies for compulsory vaccination are counterproductive nowadays. A most effective approach should promote people’s intrinsic adherence to vaccination and healthy behaviors (Taylor et al., 2020). The UK National Influenza and COVID-19 report (UKHSA, 2021) highlights an unbalanced situation in vaccination uptake among different age categories, ethnic groups, gender categories, and occupational profiles. The public health policies seem now to have saturated the population’s willingness to get vaccinated, and a more tailored approach to vaccination campaigns should be designed.

This project will explore different theoretical approaches to disclose vaccination hesitancy patterns and it will empirically test possible strategies to overcome vaccination hesitancy. Health beliefs related to vaccination are influenced by perceptions of the risk and severity of the respective disease as well as the efficacy, safety, and potential side effects of the vaccine. These beliefs are central constructs in health behavioral theories. However, personal beliefs are dynamic, and modifying them can affect behaviors, which should be borne in mind in future educational interventions and vaccination campaigns.

This project will consider the WHO-SAGE “Model on determinants of vaccine hesitancy” (MacDonald et al., 2015). According to this model, vaccine hesitancy depends on three domains: (I) Contextual influences (historic, socio-cultural, environmental, health system/institutional, economic or political factors); (II) Individual and group influences (personal perception of the vaccine or influences of the social/peer environment); and, (III) Vaccine and vaccination-specific issues (related to the characteristics of the vaccine or the vaccination process).

Project proposal: This PhD position aims to develop a theoretical understanding of vaccination hesitancy and to empirically test a model to overcome vaccination hesitancy. After a systematic review of the models of behavioral change and the identification of the specific populations and clusters to focus on, this project will develop and test a model to address vaccination hesitancy and to further design vaccination campaigns, interventions, and policies. Following these stages, an intervention will be developed and a case-control study or RCT will be designed to test the intervention’s effectiveness. The candidate will have the opportunity to collaborate with an international team on this topic and to contribute to a project funded by Sigma International, along with a research team based at Northumbria University. Our team has already produced two umbrella reviews and one primary study on this topic.

Candidates with a quantitative research background would be welcomed. The ideal candidate would demonstrate the capability to develop new competencies in data analysis and to relate to different partners across research institutions and healthcare organisations.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Professor Marco Tomietto. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see   

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


1. World Health Organization (WHO). Ten Threats to Global Health in 2019. 2019. Available on:
2. World Health Organization. (2020). Munich Security Conference. Retrieved on 15/09/2021 from
3. World Health Organization. (2021). Immunization coverage. Retrieved on 08/12/2021 from
4. Taylor S, Landry CA, Paluszek MM, Groenewoud R, Rachor GS, Asmundson GJG. A Proactive Approach for Managing COVID-19: The Importance of Understanding the Motivational Roots of Vaccination Hesitancy for SARS-CoV2. Front Psychol. 2020; 11: 575950.
5. MacDonald NE; SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy: Definition, scope and determinants. Vaccine. 2015 Aug 14;33(34):4161-4.

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