Our National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Population Health Research commenced in 2012, titled “Immunisation in under Studied and Special Risk Populations: Closing the Gap in Knowledge through a Multidisciplinary Approach.”
The use of vaccines at the population level has increased substantially in both cost and complexity in Australia and internationally over the past decade or more. The cost of vaccine purchase alone, not including delivery and monitoring, has increased from less than $20 million dollars in 1993 to over $500 million in 2007, making the National Immunisation Program (NIP) the single most costly publicly-funded preventive program in Australia. This highlights the importance of high quality research evidence to inform vaccine policy, in diverse areas ranging from vaccine efficacy and safety to changing environmental factors, social norms and population demographics. Important research relating to vulnerable population subgroups at high disease risk and/or marginalised, usually remains beyond the scope of funding from government or industry. In industry-sponsored clinical trials, high-risk groups are often specifically excluded. The pharmaceutical industry usually conducts research and supports submissions for government reimbursement for the general population. Despite the addition of many more vaccines to the NIP, there is set to be an even greater increase in vaccine candidates, some of which may need to be targeted at high-risk populations for cost or logistic reasons. Such research is not commercially viable and is usually outside the remit of government agencies. These risk groups suffer disproportionate morbidity and mortality, either because of less robust immunity (such as neonates, pregnant women and the frail elderly) or because of co-morbidities and environmental factors (such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, migrants and refugees). Our CRE is dedicated to addressing this gap in knowledge using high quality, multi-method research in a collaborative team environment. The CRE funds a range of talented post-doctoral researchers and research students who will work with the team of chief and associate investigators to fulfilling our goals under four streams of the CRE.
This CRE brings together advanced expertise in clinical and epidemiological research, disease and economic modelling, data linkage and social science to the cross-cutting theme of vaccination across the four risk-population streams.
We are a team of international experts in quantitative and qualitative methods in vaccine research, across UNSW, The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, The Kirby Institute, The Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, The University of Sydney and the University of Antwerp.
This CRE will focus on addressing research gaps with important policy implications in the use of vaccines among high risk and/or marginalised populations in the defined streams through the application and development of multidisciplinary, mixed method research.
Over the 5 years of the program this CRE will further develop research capacity specific to the use of vaccines among high risk and/or marginalised groups and promote translation of the findings into policy and practice.
The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) will provide strategic guidance on research directions, CRE activities and advice on translation of research into practice. The SAB members for the CRE are:
Margaret Burgess (chair): Honorary Professor & Founding Director of NCIRS and retired Professor of Paediatrics and Preventive Medicine at the University of Sydney.
Ross Andrews: Epidemiologist, Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT
Terry Nolan: Professor & Head, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne. Victoria
Lisa Maher: Professor, NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and Head, Viral Hepatitis Epidemiology and Prevention Program, The Kirby institute, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW.
Sandra Eades: Professor, Sydney School of Public Health, The Univesity of Sydney, Head, Indigenous Maternal and Child Health and Associate Head, Preventative Health Research, at the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute.
Wendy Bissinger: Public Health Medical Officer, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc. (The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) representative)
Margaret Kay: Senior lecturer at Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine The University of Queensland.
Nick Zwar: Professor of General Practice in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW
First SAB meeting - 16th November 2012
Second SAB meeting - 15th November 2013