University of Iowa medical anthropologists study the lived experiences of COVID-19 vaccine recipients

Their report, published in the journal Vaccine, will help inform messaging campaigns aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy
Friday, March 19, 2021

vaccinationIOWA CITY—The public has learned much in the early months of 2021 about the medical efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. But what about how individual patients feel about their experiences receiving a vaccination, and how they talk about it with others?

Two University of Iowa medical anthropologists set out to study this humanistic side of the question, and the results may help public health advocates refine their approach to encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Dr. Emily Wentzell, associate professor of anthropology, and Dr. Ana-Monica Racila, a postdoctoral fellow in the UI Carver College of Medicine, have published their study in Vaccine. The journal is unique in publishing the highest quality science across all disciplines relevant to the field of vaccinology.

The paper, titled "The social experience of participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial: Subjects’ motivations, others’ concerns, and insights for vaccine promotion," reports on a study of 31 participants in the Iowa City site of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine phase 3 clinical trial, led by Dr. Patricia Winkour at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. By focusing on the experiences of trial participants, the paper offers an early view of people’s lived experiences of potentially receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition, Wentzell noted another important benefit of the project.

“This research demonstrates how productive collaboration between the liberal arts and medical sides of a university can be,” she said.

Wentzell’s and Racila’s research was funded by a grant from the UI’s Arts and Humanities Initiative. Wentzell joined the UI Department of Anthropology faculty in 2010, and is faculty director of the International Studies Program. Racila earned the PhD in medical anthropology from the UI in 2020.

About the article

"The social experience of participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial: Subjects’ motivations, others’ concerns, and insights for vaccine promotion," by Emily Wentzell, PhD, Ana-Monica Racila, PhD. DOI: It will be published in Vaccine, Volume XX (2021), published by Elsevier.

Where to get the article
Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Elsevier's Newsroom at or +31 20 485 2719.

About Vaccine

Vaccine is the pre-eminent journal for those interested in vaccines and vaccination. It is the official journal of The Edward Jenner Society and The Japanese Society for Vaccinology and is published by Elsevier


Nic Arp, CLAS Communications

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.