Student Researchers Find H1N1 Vaccination Unpopular

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 10, 2009) – Media warnings, school notifications and even student-produced public service announcements made available through popular social media have not been able to break through entrenched attitudes about H1N1 vaccination, according to a survey conducted by students in a University of South Florida public relations course.




Though many of the 252 USF students in the sample did not want to miss class or work because of illness and did not have issues with the time it would take to get the vaccine, many were deterred by not being worried about getting the flu and by being afraid of the side effects.


After viewing one of nine student-produced PSAs in one survey, slightly more than 68 percent of respondents indicated they were somewhat or very unlikely to receive the H1N1 vaccine, a negligible decline from the almost 71 percent who indicated they were unlikely before viewing the PSA. Some PSAs were more successful than others at increasing intention, including a slideshow of photos of people interspersed with H1N1 facts, a commercial parody, and a video that shows students spreading germs – in the form of red paint – as they go from one activity to another in a carefree manner.


Courtney Wilson, a student in the course, echoes the sentiments of the respondents.


“After watching some of the videos in class, it made me think twice about touching certain objects on campus or in my daily life without washing my hands after,” she said, “but unfortunately, it doesn’t make me any more likely to want to get the vaccine.”


Despite little movement in intention to receive the vaccine, students did indicate that the PSAs increased their knowledge of H1N1, with almost 60 percent indicating the PSA they watched increased their knowledge “very much” or “somewhat.”


“This study indicates that although students feel informed about H1N1, the vaccine, and how to prevent the spread of flu, they are still not convinced the vaccine is right for them when they weigh the risks against the rewards,” said Kelli Burns, assistant professor in the School of Mass Communications, whose students conducted the research.  “The challenge for any communicator is to motivate people to take action, a much more difficult task than increasing their knowledge on a subject.”


The survey project was part of a broader initiative by Burns to bring more social media tools into the classroom, particularly for collecting and presenting data.  Through an Innovative Teaching Grant from the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence at USF, Burns was able to purchase the Flip cameras students used to record and edit their videos. After uploading the videos to YouTube, students were able to embed the videos in an online survey hosted by SurveyMonkey.  For another assignment, students recorded interviews using their laptops and a Monitronics microphone, created podcasts and uploaded the podcasts to their blogs.


“I thoroughly enjoyed the social media component of this class,” said Joan Landquist, another student in the class.  “The aspect of social media really helped me apply the material. I had fun using the Flip Cam, it was a fun tool. I really enjoyed the interview project as that enabled me to interview a professional, which provided me with solid evidence as to why social media was important. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but this project was a great intro to conducting research.”


Her classmate Varuni Jaipershad added, “Before this class I never really used social media and I thought it was more a tool for fun. Now, I think social media can be used in many situations like gathering research and communicating with people. It is important.”


The three videos referenced in this press release can be found at: - - and


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.