VaxPol Lab

About us

The VaxPol Lab brings together new and existing programs of work on vaccine policy and regulation and the social science of vaccination from UWA’s School of Social Sciences, Law School, School of Allied Health, and beyond. Lab members and affiliates study existing and potential vaccination policies within Australia and globally. The Lab explores how and why policies are designed and implemented, details of design and operation, and implications for populations and government.

Our aims

We aim to:

  • conduct cutting-edge, interdisciplinary scholarship of vaccination policy that informs the global field and is useful to policymakers
  • build research capacity for vaccination policy analysis and vaccination social science in Western Australia and beyond

VaxPol Lab brings together vaccination research

Current research projects

Advancing Solutions for Addressing Vaccine Rejection: The Drivers and Impact of Mandatory Vaccination

Dr Katie Attwell’s flagship Commonwealth-funded project studies numerous facets of new mandatory vaccination policies for children in Australia, Italy, France and California. It considers agenda setting, design, use of expertise, enforcement, exemptions and the presentation of impacts and results. Dr Attwell is currently contracted to Oxford University Press to write a book on California’s vaccination policy with Professor Mark Navin, Oakland University, Michigan.

ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award DE190100158

Country WA Immunisation Coverage Rates Scoping Project: WA Country Health Services
Using a modified TIP (Tailoring Immunisation Projects) strategy, this project explores why the regions of Western Australia continue to grapple with sub-optimal vaccination coverage for 2-year-olds. TIP has been developed by the World Health Organization and is used frequently in European member-states to understand reasons for under-vaccination in specific groups or regions. Future extensions of this project will move beyond situational analysis and workshops to develop and test interventions to increase coverage.
Vaccination Systems Resilience
This globally focused project develops and validates a self-assessment tool for immunisation managers and other key officials to make sense of areas of strength or weakness in their policies and programs. The project is funded by the Fondation Merieux and is intended to enhance the governance of vaccination in countries of varying economic and political development.
Norms, standards, and enforcement of the COVID-19 International Certificate of Vaccination
Dr Katie Attwell is a member of this global research team, led by Dr Andy Knight at the University of Alberta. Global leaders, policymakers, public health scholars and practitioners are considering whether a COVID-19 International Certificate of Vaccination might be the way forward for safely reopening borders. This project will provide policy guidance and insights for government and international health authorities. It will have the potential to guide countries in safely reopening their borders to the free movement of people, goods and services.
No Fault Compensation for Adverse Effects Following Vaccination
Shevaun Drislane's research explores why Australia has not enacted no fault compensation for serious adverse reactions following immunisation, and opportunities or constraints that exist in Australia for future efforts to introduce this policy.  Engaging in comparative case study analysis, she examines why and how no fault compensation was introduced in other countries (the United Kingdom and the United States) and, as part of this, considers the role played by citizen collective action to influence the policy agenda-setting process. 
 
Actively monitoring the safety of immunisation from community pharmacy
This project and its extension – the COVID-19 Vaccines in Pharmacy project – examine vaccine safety surveillance processes, knowledge and systems in Australian community pharmacies. Through partnership with key vaccine recording and surveillance platforms, we have developed an automated system to identify and report adverse reactions to COVID-19 and other vaccines administered by pharmacists. It will add vaccine safety information from pharmacies to existing information from general practices and immunisation clinics to improve early detection of any side effects linked to new COVID-19 vaccines and ensure only the safest vaccines remain in use. The overall system provides an end-to-end model for vaccine delivery, including booking, recording, reporting, reminders and active surveillance, and has the potential to be scaled globally. 
No Jab, No Play, Which Way?
‘No Jab, No Play, Which Way?’ seeks to help governments to make better public policy in the important area of childhood vaccination. Governments in Australia and internationally are tackling parents’ vaccine refusal by imposing consequences. Five state governments have introduced ‘No Jab, No Play’ policies which are designed to deny unvaccinated children access to childcare, complementing federal policies that impose further consequences. However, the policies vary significantly across states. The effects of these differences are not understood, so we have little idea which strategy works best, nor do we know anything about their other consequences and impacts. Our mixed methods design will allow us to compare and contrast the state policies and consider their effectiveness, impacts and their relationship to the federal policy. This allows us to contribute to knowledge regarding governance, and state and federal policy relationships. 
Building Vaccine Confidence Against Bad Science: The Role of Liability and Compensation Schemes for Vaccine Related Injuries
Dr Marco Rizzi leads this project, which seeks to find avenues for strengthening vaccine confidence. The project involves three types of activities. First, dissemination of in-depth analysis of liability regimes for vaccine-related injuries in major jurisdictions to interested stakeholders and a wider public to spark debate over the strengths and vulnerabilities of legal systems faced with controversial claims based on ‘bad’ science. Secondly, illustration through an in-depth case study (Italy) of the risks to vaccine confidence of governance failures in dealing with controversial claims (both in policy and legal processes). Finally, setting the scene for invigorating a policy agenda geared at the introduction of a No-Fault Compensation plan for vaccine-related injuries in Australia as a potential tool to boost vaccine confidence. This project was awarded a UWA Research Impact Grant in January 2020.

Coronavax

Our members and collaborators

Our members

VaxPol Lab Leader

Dr Katie Attwell is an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellow, senior lecturer and academic researcher at the UWA School of Social Sciences. She specialises in mandatory vaccination policy across Australia, Europe and the United States of America, researching the tactics these countries’ governments use to motivate people to vaccinate, how policies make it to the agenda, how they are designed, how they differ and how they work. Dr Attwell also leads the Coronavax project: ‘Preparing Community and Government for COVID-19 Vaccination’. Coronvax will be used to develop knowledge around the best way to communicate with the public about new vaccines and policies. 


Marco’s interest in vaccination stems from the impact of the anti-vax phenomenon on public health in the past decade in his home country, Italy. He has investigated the complexities of the causal inquiry in alleged vaccine injury cases across a range of jurisdictions, using a number of methodologies and approaches, from pure doctrinal analysis to sociolegal empirical research. This focus on vaccination falls within the scope of a broader interest of his for the relationship between risk and the law, and the role of legal and regulatory tools to promote public health and safety. His research is widely published internationally and has attracted publishing contracts from leading publishers as well as grants, including from public health authorities.

Sandra Salter is a senior lecturer in the School of Allied Health. She has broad experience in pharmacy practice, spanning clinical, leadership, business management, teaching and research roles. In 2020, in collaboration with partners SmartVax and MedAdvisor, and supported by a grant from the JM O'Hara Research Fund, Dr Salter developed and piloted the world’s first active vaccine safety surveillance system for patients immunised in pharmacies. This system will be expanded in 2021 to facilitate the safe deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, in a project led by Dr Salter and supported by a $217,000 grant from WA Health. Sandra also has more than 10 years' experience in allergy research, is a member of and the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and a researcher with the National Allergy Strategy.  

Associate Professor Chris Blyth is a clinical academic, mid-career researcher and NHMRC-funded Emerging Leadership Fellow. He is co-director of the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases (Telethon Kids Institute) and Associate Professor of Paediatrics (School of Medicine, University of Western Australia). He established the Department of Paediatric Infectious Diseases at Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) where he works as a paediatrician and clinical microbiologist. He is the current co-chair of the Australia Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and its COVID-19 working group, also serving on the COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatment for Australia Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group.


Samantha is an early-career, mixed-methods social researcher with five years of experience in leading and designing research that seeks to understand how to improve access to and understanding about vaccination. She is a Postdoctoral Research Officer at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute, and an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. Samantha draws on her expertise to contribute to important resources about vaccination for consumers and health care providers. 


Shevaun is a political science researcher with a particular interest in vaccination policy. She is currently completing her PhD at UWA. Her research explores why Australia has not enacted no-fault compensation (NFC) for serious adverse reactions following immunisation, how citizen-driven collective action can influence the policy agenda-setting process, and opportunities or constraints that exist in Australia for future efforts to introduce an NFC policy. Her research is informed by comparative analyses and qualitative research methods.   Shevaun works as a research assistant across a number of ValPolLab projects, including mandatory vaccination policy and ‘No Jab, No Play, Which Way’. 

Adam is a lecturer in Public Policy at The University of Western Australia, and is primarily interested in the translation of political ideas and expert knowledge into health and social policy. He has particular expertise in international comparative research, including with regard to major bouts of health care reform in Sweden and the United States, and policy responses to antimicrobial resistance in Australia and the UK.  He has published in scholarly journals such as Policy & Politics, Public Administration, Policy Sciences and The Journal of European Social Policy.

Tauel Harper is a lecturer in Media and Communication at UWA and leads the social media research team for Coronavax. Tauel's broad research area is technology and public communication, and his research includes work on communication technology, online radicalisation, critical theory, education, democracy and theories of play. Tauel has published two books, Democracy in the Age of New Media and Media After Deleuze. He is a frequent contributor to The Conversation and his work has featured in the leading journals New Media and Society, Australian Journal of Political Science and Symploke, among others.  

Dr Lara McKenzie is a Research Fellow for Coronavax, working in the School of Social Sciences at The University of Western Australia. Lara is a social/cultural anthropologist with expertise in researching relationships, family, gender and age in Australia, as well as undertaking projects on educational inequalities and employment precarity. Her recent publications explore singledom and COVID-19 lockdowns as well as academic research and risk. She is involved in the ‘community interviews’ component of the Coronavax study, focusing on groups such as older people, aged care workers and youth education workers.

Glenn C. Savage is a policy sociologist with expertise in federalism, intergovernmental relations and global policy mobilities. He has a particular interest in how education and health policies are developed and enacted in Australia's federal system, and the interrelationships between these policy domains. He is currently part of a UWA team that is exploring the implementation of 'No Jab, No Play' policies in Australian states and territories. He is an Associate Professor at The University of Western Australia in the School of Social Sciences and the Graduate School of Education.

Dr Sian Tomkinson is a research officer in the VaxPol Lab at The University of Western Australia. In the Lab, Sian is involved in conducting research on vaccination coverage in country areas of Western Australia. She assists the team in designing, conducting, reporting on and publishing research projects as well as liaising with stakeholders. Sian also teaches in Media and Communication at UWA and is involved in various projects related to digital communities and cultures. Her PhD and main research areas are in game studies and gender.

Dr Barbara Nattabi is a senior lecturer at the UWA School of Population and Global Health. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) (Makerere University, Uganda), an MSc in Public Health in Developing Countries (University of London) and a PhD in International Health (Curtin University). Previously she worked at the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (2010–2019) where she held a NHMRC Early Career Research Fellowship (2014–2018). Prior to that, Barbara worked as a medical doctor and public health researcher for over seven years with rural disadvantaged and marginalised populations in post-conflict Northern Uganda. Barbara is particularly interested in the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Western Australia and their perspectives of the COVID-19 vaccination program (Coronavax 3 project).

Dr Julie Ji is an inaugural Forrest Postdoctoral Fellow based at the UWA School of Psychological Science’s Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion. She is an expert on mental imagery-based future thinking and its impact on emotion, judgment and behaviour in the context of depression, anxiety, and self-injury. Bringing insights and methodologies from her cutting-edge research, Dr Ji is working with VaxPolLab to investigate modifiable psychological factors driving vaccine hesitancy and refusal. Dr Ji completed doctoral training at the University of Cambridge in the UK, and joined UWA following postdoctoral training at the University of Virginia, USA.

Dr Lisa Wood is a tireless advocate for research being relevant and useful to the real world, with her breadth of research focusing on reducing health inequalities across areas of homelessness, family and domestic violence, and mental health. Lisa leads an expansive program of collaborative homelessness research, strongly anchored around priorities identified by services working at the coalface of homelessness and people with a lived experience.

 

Tackling barriers to preventive healthcare is a high priority, and together with Homeless Healthcare, Lisa has led, since 2019, the implementation and evaluation of targeted influenza vaccination clinics for people experiencing homelessness. Since the onset of COVID-19, she has worked closely with the health and homelessness sectors in WA and nationally to amplify the need for people experiencing homelessness to be recognised as a high priority population group because they cannot ‘stay home’ and have a high prevalence of risk factors for COVID mortality. Through the Coronavax 3 project, Lisa will contribute to ensuring that the barriers and enablers to COVID vaccination for vulnerable populations groups are heard.

Our collaborators

Dr Samantha Carlson

Samantha is an early-career, mixed-methods social researcher with five years of experience in leading and designing research that seeks to understand how to improve access to and understanding about vaccination. She is a Postdoctoral Research Officer at the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute, and an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. Samantha draws on her expertise to contribute to important resources about vaccination for consumers and health care providers.


Dr Michael Deml

Dr Michael Deml holds a PhD in Epidemiology/Public Health (Faculty of Medicine, University of Basel, Switzerland) and a MA in Sociology (University of Geneva, Switzerland). A Swiss National Science Foundation Postdoc.Mobility Fellow, Michael joins Dr Katie Attwell and her team to study coronavirus vaccine rollout in the Australian context and the impacts of the epidemic on routine vaccine uptake and sentiment. His previous research has employed qualitative and mixed methods to study vaccine hesitancy and under-immunisation in Switzerland. As a social scientist, Michael is interested in patient-provider interactions, infectious disease prevention, medicalised prevention, the politics of prevention and health risk governance. 


Mark Christopher Navin

Mark Christopher Navin, PhD, HEC-C, is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Oakland University (Rochester, MI, USA) and Clinical Ethicist at Beaumont Health. He works primarily in clinical ethics and the ethics of public health, and also conducts empirical research about immunisation policies. His monograph Values and Vaccine Refusal: Hard Questions in Ethics, Epistemology and Health Care was published by Routledge in 2016. His articles have appeared in journals including JAMA Pediatrics, Milbank Quarterly, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Pediatrics, Vaccine, American Journal of Bioethics, Hastings Center Report, and Journal of Medical Ethics. Along with Katie Attwell, he is author of America's Vaccine Wars: California and the Politics of Mandates, under contract with Oxford University Press.

Work with us

 

Prospective researchers interested in researching vaccination policy, especially from a political science, public policy or social science perspective can join existing projects or craft their own with input from supervisors. Prospective researchers must be willing to complete a PhD by publication. If you’d like to get involved, contact Dr Katie Attwell on the details below. 

Contact

 

Contact Dr Katie Attwell

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Research repository

Read more about Dr Attwell

Research repository