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Student develops website to tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and resource accessibility

Atman Jahagirdar Apr. 19, 2021 - When Atman Jahagirdar, an 11th grader at Edina High School, noticed hesitancy in his community during a measles outbreak in Hennepin County, he felt inclined to dig deeper. After reading an article about vaccine hesitancy by Dr. Anita Shet, a researcher at Johns Hopkins, Jahagirdar reached out to her to learn more.

She helped him develop a comprehensive survey to gather information about the differing perspectives that his community may have on vaccinations, focusing on the COVID-19 vaccine. His survey received over 1,500 responses from students, parents, and staff at Edina, allowing him to identify the root of the hesitations and work towards alleviating fears and reservations. Through this work, the Global COVID Guide was created.

“I realized, why not work towards this myself while also spreading the information I've garnered,” said Jahagirdar. “So I decided I would make a hub of comprehensible information for people of all backgrounds, including some of the first informative resources for many languages like Amharic, Swahili, and interviews in Somali.”

After his initial research was established, Jahagirdar purchased the domain covidedu.org, and with the help of another 11th grader he connected with from Texas, they developed a web platform to host the vast information and resources that he was gathering. With his baseline information now available to help those with vaccine hesitancy, he then connected with multilingual health care providers to accurately translate resources and vaccine information. They also advised him on potential needs for the different communities. 

“I found that non-Asian minorities were especially hesitant to vaccinate and that individuals would largely change their opinion if given the recommendation of health care providers,” said Jahagirdar. “I decided to conduct interviews in various languages spreading COVID information and disproving its fallacies.”

The Global COVID Guide In addition to these conversations, he also conducted interviews with doctors and patients impacted by pandemic, covering topics like the importance of vaccinating, points of misinformation, and personal stories of the impact of COVID-19. The site hosts Jahagirdar’s study results, recent headlines relating to COVID and leadership responses, and access to  resources in eight different languages, including where to find a vaccine, general information about COVID-19, and how to get tested.

Working with a multilingual team of health care providers and students, Jahagirdar’s goal is to not let language be a barrier to accessing information about the vaccine. He hopes to expand the languages available, include more interviews, and potentially publish his research.

His hope is that people will use this website as a tool for not only themselves, but for family or friends that may benefit from it, especially those who speak other languages. “Take a look at the website and share with all your friends, whether they are hesitant to vaccinate or not,” Jahagirdar said, “Sharing this website is the best thing anyone can do for us, and in the battle against vaccine hesitancy, a mass movement is necessary. Share, share, share!”

Visit the Global COVID Guide at covidedu.org to access Jahagirdar’s research and shared resources regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations.