Past Event

Transcript and Video Available | Launch of the Report: Crisis Communications and Vaccine Uptake in Fragile African Settings

June 22, 2021
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time

To Be Safe Anywhere, Be Safe Everywhere.

Join us for the release of the report on the proceedings of the third colloquium of the History and Future of Planetary Threats series held on March 31, 2021.  Special guest speaker Tom Frieden, report contributor Chinwe Lucia Ochu, and panelist Youssef Cherif will reflect on the report’s critical lessons for crisis communications and vaccine uptake.

The challenges at this juncture are complex. Looking ahead, panelists will discuss effective methodologies for communicating COVID-19 risk to drive distribution and uptake of vaccines in fragile state settings—whether due to instability, post war conditions, or internal strife.   

As the COVID-19 vaccine campaign moves worldwide, innovative approaches to vaccine campaigns are needed. Vaccines cannot displace public health and social measures. Communications must be tailored to the audience, and calibrated to context, country, and culture. Inspired by research on the COVID-19 pandemic response in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa at the ISERP Center for Pandemic Research funded by Schmidt Futures, this colloquium and report endeavors to shed light on the ongoing resistance to COVID-19 and the broader aim to save lives. 



TOM FRIEDEN is a physician trained in internal medicine, infectious diseases, public health, and epidemiology. He is former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department. Dr. Frieden is currently President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies. Dr. Frieden began his public health career in New York City identifying then leading the effort that stopped the largest outbreak of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis to occur in the US. He was then assigned to India, on loan from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he helped scale up a program for effective tuberculosis diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring. Asked to return to New York City to become Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Health Commissioner, he directed efforts to reduce smoking and other leading causes of death that increased life expectancy by 3 years. As Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Frieden oversaw the work that helped end the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic. He now leads Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, that partners with countries to prevent 100 million deaths and to make the world safer from epidemics. During the Covid pandemic, Dr. Frieden has overseen an expansion of Resolve to Save Lives activities including policy and program innovations in the United States, counsel and support to multilateral institutions, and support for rapid response, health care worker safety, and data-driven decision-making in more than 20 countries. Dr. Frieden is also Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

CHINWE LUCIA OCHU is a medical doctor with over 24 years’ experience as a clinician. She has MBBS from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria (1996) and MPH from University of Liverpool, UK (2016). Chinwe currently works with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) as the Acting Director Prevention, Programmes & Knowledge Management and as the Head of Research. NCDC is Nigeria’s National Public Health Institute with the mandate to protect the health of Nigerians through prevention, early detection and control of infectious diseases of public health importance. She is a collaborator of Global Burden of Disease (GBD) and a reviewer for scientific journals and research funders including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), UK. Chinwe is the Principal Investigator of the US CDC-funded ‘Advancing Infectious Disease Research across Nigeria’ (AIDRAN) project. She is the convener and National Coordinator of the Nigeria COVID-19 Research Consortium.

YOUSSEF CHERIF is a political analyst who specializes in North African affairs. He is member in Carnegie's Civic Research Network and is contributing to a number of think-tanks. He was previously the Al-Maidan Libya Project manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and an expert affiliated to the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies (ITES). He consulted for the Arab Institute for Business Managers (IACE), the UN, The Carter Center in Tunisia, etc. Youssef holds a Chevening Master of Arts in International Relations from the Department of War Studies of King's College London, and a Fulbright Master of Arts in Classical Studies from Columbia University, where he first came as a Visiting Scholar. He comments or writes regularly for several media outlets, including Al Jazeera English, France 24, BBC, Fanack and think-tanks such as DGAP, IEMed and the Atlantic Council.



WILMOT JAMES, is Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), College of Arts and Sciences, and Associate Director of Program in Vaccine Education at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University. Wilmot is a policy specialist. His research on labor migration (James, Our Precious Metal: African Labour in South Africa’s Gold Industry, Indiana University Press, 1992) led to his appointment as chairman of the task team that designed the first post-apartheid refugee protection and immigration policies under President Nelson Mandela. As a Member of Parliament and spokesman on health Wilmot developed an enduring interest in global health security policy formulation. He is a contributing author to and editor of Vital Signs: Health Security in South Africa (Brenthurst Foundation, 2020). His greatest honor was to serve as a co-editor of the late President Nelson Mandela’s presidential speeches published as Nelson Mandela In His Own Words (Little Brown and Co, 2003). Wilmot’s current research interests are in global health security. He also serves as a senior biosecurity consultant to the Washington DC based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and is an honorary professor of public health at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

ROBERT Y. SHAPIRO is the Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government in the Department of Political Science and Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He has served as Chair of the Department of Political Science and Acting Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP).   He specializes in American politics with research and teaching interests in public opinion, policymaking, political leadership, the mass media, and applications of statistical methods.  He is also the current President of The Academy of Political Science and Editor of its flagship journal Political Science Quarterly.  He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

ISERP Series: The History and Future of Planetary Threats

In this series, ISERP convenes meetings to examine historic and contemporary catastrophic risks and hazards, whether natural, accident or deliberate, in the following domains: geological, biological, epidemic infectious disease, environmental, chemical, extreme weather, radiological and nuclear, or combinations of these. By catastrophic we understand to mean classes of events that could lead to sudden, extraordinary, widespread disaster beyond the collective capacity of national and international organizations and the private sector to control, causing severe disruptions in normal social functioning, heavy tolls in terms of morbidity and mortality, and major economic losses; in sum, events that may well cause a change in the direction of history. Nuclear falls into a class of its own, because it can result in the annihilation of life on planet earth and the end of history as we know it.


EVENT PARTNERS include Center for Pandemic Research at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP); Frontline Nurses: Columbia Center for the Study of Social Difference; Columbia School of Nursing; Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Programs in Vaccine Education; Columbia Global Centers Nairobi and Tunis; the Earth Institute; and The Academy of Political Science.