One of the world’s leading experts on mandatory childhood vaccination is leading a new hub that brings together vaccination research and expertise in social science at The University of Western Australia.
Vaxpol Lab will be led by Dr Katie Attwell, from UWA’s School of Social Sciences. Dr Attwell also leads the interdisciplinary Coronavax project to engage in community and government research into readiness for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
“It’s never been more important for us to understand vaccination, people's acceptance of it, barriers to vaccination, and how to design good policy to promote vaccination."Dr Katie Attwell
“We need something like Vaxpol Lab because especially during these Covid vaccine rollout times there’s a lot of interest in all aspects of vaccination policy,” Dr Attwell said.
“It’s never been more important for us to understand vaccination, people's acceptance of it, barriers to vaccination, and how to design good policy to promote vaccination.
“The aim of Vaxpol Lab is to bring together and build momentum for all the vaccination social science and policy work that’s being conducted at The University of Western Australia.
“It enables us to build capacity in our younger researchers and helps us identify people who might want to step into that field if they’re interested in doing some research into vaccinations, and especially Covid-19 vaccinations.
“My goal is to eventually reach Centre status and eventually an ARC Centre of Excellence by having this interdisciplinary hub of vaccination social science and policy research that really can speak to the current moment.”
Dr Attwell said Covid-19 would not be the last time such expertise was needed.
“In recent years Australia has rolled out pregnancy vaccines and that’s been something very new, and there will be more vaccines coming in pregnancy and more childhood vaccines rolled out in future.
“And eventually we’ll be getting Covid-19 vaccines for children, so it’s really about making sure that we have the critical mass in this state and building towards the critical mass for this country so we can answer the pressing questions for our future.”
Research to be carried out through Vaxpol Lab will include examining strategies to influence clinical conversations between practitioners and providers and those who are hesitant about having the vaccine. Dr Atwell said she hoped research results could then be translated into clinical areas such as hospitals.
“We’d also like to play a role in contributing to policy and that can include how we diagnose and understand reasons why adults or children are not vaccinated as well as thinking about the best strategies – and how we arrive at conclusions about what the best strategies are – to encourage uptake,” she said.
“We’re hoping that as the WA and Australian community becomes aware of Vaxpol Lab they will come to us if they have vaccination policy or social science questions they need answering.”