WSU partnership addresses vaccine hesitancy through Cooperative Extension System initiative

EXCITE logoWashington State University’s Edward R. Murrow Center for Media & Health Promotion Research, in partnership with WSU Extension and the WSU College of Education, will lead engagement efforts to reduce vaccine hesitancy in rural and underserved communities through a new, nationwide land-grant initiative.

The national Extension Foundation, in cooperation with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy and through an Interagency Agreement with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is funding a Cooperative Extension System initiative to address health disparities in underserved areas: the Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement, or EXCITE.

The EXCITE program serves all land-grant universities, reaching communities with limited resources to address vaccine hesitancy through two previously announced sets of activities. The first is a system-wide engagement with the CDC’s Vaccinate with Confidence communication campaign. The second includes selected adult immunization education pilot projects. Seventy-two land-grant universities are served through 96 projects enabling critical education outreach to over four million underserved citizens.

A third award opportunity was released Oct. 1, 2021, with the goal to assess vaccine hesitancy of Extension field educators, specialists, and administrators; create and implement a strategy to reduce vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19 and other adult immunizations; and increase their confidence and willingness to become immunization educators in their communities.

After a competitive RFA process, Washington State University was selected as the recipient of this award. Project leaders from Washington State University include:

  • Erica Weintraub Austin, Professor and Director, Edward R. Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion Research, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication
  • Paul Bolls, Associate Dean of Research & Graduate Studies, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication
  • Zena Edwards, Associate Professor and Project Co-leader, WSU Extension Youth and Families Program Unit
  • Courtney Payne, Extension Educator
  • Bruce W. Austin, Research Assistant Professor, Learning and Performance Research Center, College of Education

Their project goal is to reduce hesitancy around vaccination, and increase willingness to serve in educational roles around adult vaccination among Cooperative Extension personnel at all three types of land-grant institutions (1862, 1890, 1994). Funding runs Dec. 1, 2021, through April 30, 2023.

“Washington State’s proposal from the Edward R. Murrow Center for Media and Health Promotion Research, the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, the College of Education, and in collaboration with WSU Extension’s Youth and Families Program, brings an innovative look at vaccination hesitancy,” said Michelle Rodgers, EXCITE Project Director and Associate Dean and Director of Extension at the University of Delaware.

“Their approach complements Cooperative Extension’s EXCITE initiative by recognizing that information-based campaigns often don’t resolve ambivalence and may even create psychological reactance,” Rodgers added. “Their plan combines the evidence-based practices of motivational interviewing, media literacy, and biometric/physiological testing used in neuromarketing to help uncover reasons for hesitancy and provide solutions along and is partnered with Extension faculty members on the team. Previously, this team has successfully paired with Cooperative Extension in Washington State around nutrition education messaging that demonstrates baseline knowledge of the work of Cooperative Extension and its stakeholders. Our program team is looking forward to partnering with Washington State on this project.”

To learn more about the EXCITE program, visit