CUNY SPH launches sweeping vaccine research and literacy campaign

Apr. 14, 2021
Shot of a doctor having a consultation with a patient

Bold Partnership to Defuse Vaccine Hesitancy Down to the Zip Code in Most Populous Region of the Nation

In a race to transform the vaccine-hesitant into adopters in New York City and surrounding counties as Covid-19 variants rise, the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) has announced the New York State Vaccine Education and Adoption Project. Building upon the school’s pandemic-long commitment to surveying New Yorkers to understand perspectives and its emphasis on engaging community, the project will accomplish three critical goals: to measure vaccine sentiments in the lower nine counties of New York State, to visualize these sentiments to understand where pockets of hesitancy exist, and finally, to design a vaccine literacy program for the most deeply hesitant communities across the five boroughs of New York, as well as Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Three philanthropic leaders – The New York Community Trust, Altman Foundation, and New York State Health Foundation – have committed a total of $425,000 to establish the New York Vaccine Literacy Campaign and support the effort through the next 18 months.

“We as New Yorkers and as a nation are at a crucial juncture in fighting a global pandemic that has erased lives and livelihoods. Unless we are able to engage every neighborhood in vaccine acceptance with respect and information, we leave ourselves vulnerable to variants and a shortfall of herd immunity,” said Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, Dean of CUNY SPH. “Hesitancy due to misinformation, bias or other causes should not prevent our city and the surrounding region from overcoming this crisis. This research will allow insights into a host of factors barring vaccination.”

The New York Vaccine Literacy Campaign is a component of the CONVINCE USA Initiative at CUNY SPH, led by Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Scott Ratzan.

“Measuring sentiments from New Yorkers with specificity down to the community level will give us insights into the driving forces to bolster vaccine confidence and trust,” said Dr. Ratzan. “CUNY SPH and the CONVINCE USA Initiative have a strong track record of surveying New Yorkers throughout the pandemic. Support from these three funders will allow us to advance vaccine literacy that ultimately will help support the vaccination efforts in the city and state.”

Trio of Funders Committed to New York’s Health

New York was unquestionably hit hard by the pandemic, and the collective funding of CUNY SPH by three key institutions will enable the school to survey New Yorkers for sentiments, establish an interactive dashboard display to visualize results, and work in collaboration with community leaders to build communications tools to establish trust and familiarity with vaccines and the vaccination process.

“We are facing the greatest public health threat the country has seen in over a century,” said Irfan Hasan, Deputy Vice President for Grants at the New York Community Trust. “Now, with a vaccine to immunize people against the Covid-19 virus, there is a chance to slow the spread of the virus and achieve herd immunity. It is of critical importance that all people choose to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.”

“The rise of Covid-19 variants makes it critically important to address barriers to vaccination quickly and effectively,” said Rachael N. Pine, JD, Senior Program Officer at the Altman Foundation. “This project promises to offer community groups, community vaccination sites, and even public health agencies a new resource — one that will enable them to gauge whether hesitancy and distrust, access barriers, or both are the primary factors in disproportionately depressing vaccination rates by zip code. We are pleased to support CUNY SPH in this effort.”

“Understanding what New Yorkers think about the vaccine is crucial to building trust and increasing vaccine literacy and confidence,” said Avital Havusha, Vice President for Programs, NYSHealth. “We need to meet people where they are and partner with communities to address vaccine hesitancy and connect New Yorkers to vaccines.”

“Covid-19 battered our city and New Yorkers were resilient enough to fight back, flatten the curve and help us return to some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy.” said Dr. Lyndon Haviland, Chair of the CUNY SPH Foundation Board of Directors. “We cannot and will not get back to our way of life unless we all receive a vaccine. The Biden Administration has made these vaccines available to us faster than expected, and now we need to make sure New Yorkers understand the vaccine and trust in its safety.”

“We are deeply honored and humbled by this pioneering partnership to collaboratively support the school in this shared mission to end the pandemic,” said Adam M. Doyno, Executive Director of the CUNY SPH Foundation. “This pandemic requires everyone to work together to end it. The CUNY SPH Foundation is pleased to play our role and work with these three funders to make a difference in New York’s vaccination efforts.”

About New York Community Trust

A public charity, The Trust is a grant making foundation dedicated to improving the lives of residents of New York City and its suburbs. We bring together individuals, families, foundations, and businesses to build a better community and support nonprofits that make a difference. We apply knowledge, creativity, and resources to the most challenging issues in an effort to ensure meaningful opportunities and a better quality of life for all New Yorkers, today and tomorrow.

About Altman Foundation

The mission of the Altman Foundation is to enrich the quality of life in New York City through support for programs and institutions that advance opportunity and equity for individuals, families, and communities.

About the New York State Health Foundation

The New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) is a private, statewide foundation dedicated to improving the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. Today, NYSHealth concentrates its work in two strategic priority areas: Empowering Health Care Consumers and Healthy Food, Healthy Lives. The Foundation is committed to making grants, informing health policy and practice, spreading effective programs to improve the health care system and the health of New Yorkers, serving as a convener of health leaders across the State, and providing technical assistance to its grantees and partners.


The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) is committed to teaching, research, and service that creates a healthier New York City and helps promote equitable, efficient, and evidence-based solutions to pressing health problems facing cities around the world. Located in Harlem, CUNY SPH is the top-ranked public school of public health in New York City, New York State, and the tristate region.

About the CUNY SPH Foundation

The CUNY SPH Foundation’s mission is to advance the achievement of CUNY SPH’s mission, vision, and values as New York City’s public school of public health through fundraising, building strategic partnerships, and providing services as a champion for the school’s students as they embark on public health careers and its faculty as they work to educate the next generation of public health professionals.

For more information, contact:
Lynthia Romney