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Ethical Issues in Participatory Action Research on Covid-appropriate Behaviour and Vaccine Hesitancy in India: A Case with Commentaries

Narayanan, Pradeep; Brear, Michelle; Shabangu, Pinky; Groot, Barbara; van den Eijnde, Charlotte; Banks, Sarah

Ethical Issues in Participatory Action Research on Covid-appropriate Behaviour and Vaccine Hesitancy in India: A Case with Commentaries Thumbnail


Pradeep Narayanan

Michelle Brear

Pinky Shabangu

Barbara Groot

Charlotte van den Eijnde


This article starts with a case outlining ethical challenges encountered in participatory action research (PAR) on vaccine hesitancy in rural India during Covid-19. Community researchers were recruited by a not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of both discovering the reasons for vaccine hesitancy and encouraging take-up. This raised issues about the roles and responsibilities of local researchers in their own communities, where they might be blamed for adverse reactions to vaccination. They and their mentor struggled with balancing societal protection against individual rights to make choices. These themes are explored in two commentaries discussing the difficulties in balancing ethics in public health (prioritising societal benefits), social research (protecting participants from harm and respecting their rights not to be involved) and participatory research practices (maximising democratic participation and decision-making). As discussed in the first commentary, often these cohere, but tensions can arise. The second commentary also raises the issue of epistemic justice, questioning the extent to which the villagers could have a say in the design, implementation and interpretation of the research, and the dangers of not hearing the voices and arguments of people who reject vaccination. The case and commentaries highlight the complexities of PAR and additional challenges in a public health context.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 28, 2023
Online Publication Date May 16, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 17, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 17, 2023
Journal Ethics and Social Welfare
Print ISSN 1749-6535
Electronic ISSN 1749-6543
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the Accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent.

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