Social science

The safest, most effective vaccines will only benefit society if the public accept them. To maximise vaccine uptake for at-risk groups, it is essential to understand why people do and do not immunise. CIs Leask, Macintyre, Wood, and Beutels have established track records of research in this area. PRP Seale has published on behavioural aspects of  HCW vaccination;  PRP Ridda on vaccination of frail elderly, PRP Heywood on traveller vaccination; PRP Sheikh on refugee vaccination; and K Wiley on pregnancy vaccination. Poorly timed, ineffective communications are costly and ineffective. However, current investment in the evidence base to inform best practice in communication is poor and the evidence needs to be informed by better evidence from clinical, community or mass media settings.The rapid rise of the internet, mobile technologies and social media raises new challenges, particularly in regard to the ‘well connected’ generations of adolescents, travellers who may be influenced by the content and rapid spread of information and rumours about vaccines. This emerging issue is poorly understood. This theme of the CRE will focus on better defining the barriers to vaccination in the four groups through strategic collaborations and capacity building. It will develop and test interventions to improve risk communication, such as online consumer decision tools and peer led groups. It will utilise novel technologies for increasing immunisation rates in at-risk groups such as SMS reminder and recall systems and provider-led interventions. Social science research can also contribute to a better measurement of the psychosocial impact of VPDs. Quality of life instruments that serve as utilities in economic evaluation are generic and insufficiently sensitive to draw out disease-specific impacts on quality of life. Disease like pertussis, hepatitis B and influenza all exact varying levels of impact on the individual’s daily functioning, emotional and social wellbeing. This aspect of the research will contribute to economic modelling through the development and testing of VPD specific quality of life instruments that will allow more valid measures of impact. Australia has a scarcity of researchers with a combination of skills in immunisation and the social sciences. This CRE offers a team with the expertise and a track record of research, publications, leadership, mentoring and collaboration led by A/Professor  Leask, an internationally recognised specialist in psychological and sociological aspects of vaccination.