During the past academic year 2021-22, UWSOP Professor and Associate Director Beth Devine enjoyed a sabbatical as a Fulbright US Senior Scholar and a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Methodology in Health Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of Murcia (UMU), in Murcia, España. With 38,000 students and established in 1272, UMU is the third oldest university in Spain and the thirteenth oldest in the world.
Embedded in a research group led by Alberto Torres-Cantero, MD, PhD, a graduate of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and former Fulbright Scholar, while in Murcia, Dr. Devine investigated the association between sources of information about Covid and beliefs in vaccine safety/efficacy, and willingness to be vaccinated. Joined by two junior investigators, she led an analysis of public opinion, cross-sectional, survey data collected by the European Commission in May 2021. Called Flash Eurobarometer 494, the dataset was comprised of a representative sample of individuals 15 years or older, living in 27 countries in the European Union. Using a latent class analysis, propensity score methods, and structural equation modeling, her team’s results suggest that 50% of those who rely on social media and friends/family for information reported that vaccines are neither safe nor effective, and never planned to be vaccinated. In contrast, 86% of respondents who rely on health professionals or national authorities reported that vaccines are safe/effective, and almost 72% indicated they had already been vaccinated or would be vaccinated as soon as possible. Demographics differed between groups. The countries with the highest proportion of vaccine recipients were Spain, Northern Ireland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. The European Commission has several initiatives in place to fight disinformation – Fighting Disinformation, #FactsMatter, and the Digital Services Act, 2022. Dr. Devine plans to submit the manuscript to Lancet Public Health.
She also gave guest lectures in the Epidemiology courses for MPH students who are residents in preventive medicine and completed an online course in the statistical programming language R. Furthermore, she studied Spanish, traveled extensively throughout the culturally and historically fascinating Iberian Peninsula and made several good friends. Spending time and sharing research projects with the other Fulbright Senior US Scholars located throughout España was inspiring and increased her appreciation for all types of research – from music to international human rights for displaced persons.