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Vaccination Research

By Jamie McCrary

Photo by John Keith at NIH

Photo by John Keith at NIH.

AU rising sophomore Andrew Episcopo is committed to exploring his many interests—both through his interdisciplinary classes and through his research. This past March, Episcopo and his classmates Hannah Lappin and Alix Braun presented their study on vaccines and socioeconomics at the 2014 Mathias Student Research Conference. Together they won “Best Poster in the Sciences by a Freshman or Sophomore.”  

The Mathias Student Research Conference is an annual College of Arts and Sciences event, which provides a competitive forum for undergraduate and graduate students to present original research. Participants submit a research paper or poster, which is judged on intellectual ambition, originality and clarity of argument, and overall presentation of information. 

Episcopos’ research compared people’s opinions of vaccines to their socioeconomic status and religious affiliation, giving him the opportunity to connect his interest in public health to economics and sociology. Episcopo and his colleagues conducted surveys asking questions such as, “What is your opinion of mandatory childhood vaccinations?” and “Have you been vaccinated for tetanus or pneumonia?” The team administered a total of 60 surveys over a three- month period, interviewing people on the streets of DC and through Qualtrics, an online survey platform.  

Once responses were collected, Episcopo and his team compared answers to two separate categories: income level and religious involvement. Results indicated that the stronger one’s religious affiliation was, the less supportive they were of vaccines. Similarly, respondents with lower income levels also expressed lower support of vaccinations.  

Though these were the study’s main conclusions, Episcopo’s research also revealed another important finding: when vaccines aren’t mandatory, the number of people getting vaccinated drops significantly. Episcopo hopes that his findings will encourage people to get vaccinated, and will help the public stay healthy. “Vaccinations have been down lately. Lots of old diseases are coming back because people aren’t vaccinating against them anymore,” he says. “If one person doesn’t get vaccinated, then a lot of people are at risk. Making people aware of why vaccines are important will help make a difference.” 

Originally from Monroeville, Pennsylvania, Episcopo is currently an undeclared major, but is considering pursuing Communications, Law, Economics, and Government studies (CLEG) in the School of Public Affairs. As an interdisciplinary major, CLEG would enable him to explore multiple fields, perhaps also providing the opportunity for additional interdisciplinary research.  

Episcopo believes his classes at AU have helped inform his interest in CLEG, as well as develop a particular interest in law. “Like public health, law is a field that intersects with a lot of different fields and affects nearly everything in our society, so I think it’s a really important subject to study,” he says.