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NIH expand CEAL Grant to promote COVID-19 vaccines

  • July 28, 2021
The NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities extends research grant to promote COVID-19 vaccinations.
Written by: Anne Heaney
Media contact: Anna Jones

Amale student is getting vaccinated against COVID-19 by a health care worker wearing a face mask at Bartow Arena. With this grant extension, the alliance will now focus on encouraging vaccinations.
(Photography: Andrea Mabry)
In the fall of 2020, Alabama was one of 11 states invited to be part of the National Institutes of Health’s Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities. Less than a year later, the same group is expanding the original grant with a supplement to further research and promote COVID-19 vaccines.

CEAL Against COVID-19 Disparities works closely with the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 to find answers through community-engaged research. The initial purpose of CEAL was to use community partnerships — with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Tuskegee University and the University of South Alabama — along with community resources to promote COVID-19 facts and preventive measures, such as wearing masks and social distancing. With this grant extension, the alliance will now focus on encouraging vaccinations in under-vaccinated populations. 

“With the original grant, we used community-engaged research and intervention to promote COVID-19 prevention,” said Will Anderson, Ph.D., MPH, MPA, research associate in the Division of Preventive Medicine at UAB. “Although most people were aware of the virus, there was unfortunately a large spread of misinformation surrounding the virus, so we focused on getting factual information out to the public.” 

A group of researchers from UAB — Mona Fouad, M.D., director of the Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center; Robert P. Kimberly, M.D., from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science; Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., from the School of Public Health; and Andrea L. Cherrington, M.D., MPH, from the Division of Preventive Medicine — joined as principal investigators on the grant. 

“With this supplement to the original CEAL funding, we are shifting our focus to emphasizing vaccine uptake, understanding why people are hesitant to get vaccinated and finding better ways to get useful information out to everyone,” Fouad said. “Our goal is to address the concerns people might have and help them make informed decisions in an effort to increase our vaccination rate. Right now, we have among the lowest percentage of people vaccinated against COVID-19, which puts us at greatest risk from variants and a possible resurgence.”

For more information about CEAL, visit the NIH COVID-19 communities page.