New publication!

A new journal article, led by Dr Maria Christou-Ergos, has just been published in BMC Geriatrics.

Christou-Ergos M, Leask J, Wiley KE, (2024) The experience of traumatic events, psychological distress, and social support: links to COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and trends with age in a group of older Australians, BMC Geriatrics, 24, 302.

The abstract is below. Click here to see the full article.


Vaccination is important to reduce disease-associated morbidity and mortality in an ageing global population. While older adults are more likely than younger adults to accept vaccines, some remain hesitant. We sought to understand how traumatic events, psychological distress and social support contribute to older adults’ intention to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and whether these experiences change with age.


We analysed survey data collected as part of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study in a population of Australian adults aged 60 years and over. Data were derived from the COVID Insights study; a series of supplementary surveys about how participants experienced the COVID-19 pandemic.


Higher intention to receive a COVID-19 vaccine was associated with greater social support (adjusted odds ratio (aOR):1.08; 95%CI:1.06–1.11; p <.001) while lower intention was associated with personally experiencing a serious illness, injury or assault in the last 12 months (aOR:0.79; 95% CI:0.64–0.98; p =.03). Social support and the experience of traumatic events increased significantly with age, while psychological distress decreased.


There may be factors beyond disease-associated risks that play a role in vaccine acceptance with age. Older Australians on the younger end of the age spectrum may have specific needs to address their hesitancy that may be overlooked.

Yellow and orange fireworks

Congratulations to Maria and Belle!

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Professor Leask AO

Photograph of Professor Julie Leask

Photo credit: Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS

The SABII team would like to wish Professor Julie Leask a huge congratulations for being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to health and medical research, to policy advice, and to enhancing community understanding of immunisation.”

In receiving the award, Julie was asked to answer some questions: 

What do you think has been the greatest impact of the work that you do? 

My field looks at why people do not, or cannot, vaccinate and what to do about it. I have grown a network of other researchers who study vaccine confidence and uptake. Together we have made a difference to education and communication about vaccination. Our research doesn’t just focus on hesitancy, but also the practical barriers. We show how services, programs and systems can make vaccines as accessible as possible so all people everywhere have access to this powerful means of prevention.

I have led work for the World Health Organization developing tools for countries to understand and address the causes of low vaccination rates. I have led development of resources to help health professionals talk with people who are hesitant about vaccination. I have advised Australian governments and other countries on how to address some of the communication challenges around vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. 


What motivates you to do what you do? Where does the enjoyment come from? 

I am passionate about preventing illness and injury. Most of the things that have been successful in public health – vaccination, tobacco control, seat belts, nutrition content labelling, and so forth, rely on human behaviour. I also study health communication. People often call communication the ‘soft’ skill. But good communication can be hard. And it can save lives. That gives my job lots of meaning.  


How did you feel when you first heard that you were being considered for recognition in the Order of Australia? 

Recognition like this brings a mixture of emotions. There is the sweetness of knowing kind people nominated you, but also the questioning of whether you deserve it. Many people achieve a great deal but don’t get such public recognition. So my immediate response when I first read that I was being considered for an OA, was to cry. I felt appreciated and challenged. 


Would you like to thank anyone? 

As a social researcher, I am grateful to all the people who have generously shared their thoughts and experiences and contributed to the knowledge we’ve built. I thank my team at the University of Sydney and the national Collaboration on Social Science in Immunisation, whose work is making a difference. Thanks to whoever nominated me – I will find you soon!


There are many quiet achievers making vaccine programs happen – the Aboriginal Health workers, the nurses, community workers and others who put in so much to get people vaccinated. I am grateful to them for their work in public health. 


I am grateful to my husband Sandy and adult children Billy and Maddie who are constant companions and supporters, and just great people to be around. 


My mother June was raised to believe vaccines were harmful. She didn’t vaccinate her three boys but then changed her mind and had them all caught up after a conversation with a GP (I was born later). She did what she believed was right, even though it was hard. She listened to evidence and updated her thinking. I appreciate that kind of openness.


This video outlines the work Julie and our team do:

Congratulations Julie! Well-deserved! We look forward to working with you in 2024.

SABII team lunch

Last week the SABII team left our usual meeting room behind and headed out for an end-of-year lunch. It was a wonderful way to end a busy year. The SABII group would like to wish everyone all the very best for the festive season and a healthy, happy and fulfilling 2024. 

Team news – congratulations Dr Wiley!

We are very excited to announce that Dr Kerrie Wiley, one of SABII’s co-leaders, has been an awarded a Sydney Horizon Fellowship!!! A massive congratulations to you, Kerrie. Brilliant achievement! What a great way to end the year: Recognition of the very important work that you do, and funding to better support it.

The inaugural round of the Sydney Horizon Fellowship Scheme was highly competitive. We had 1462 applications received from 66 countries, with outstanding candidates applying to every faculty/university school.

A cornerstone of the University’s Sydney in 2032 Strategy, the Fellowships are designed to empower the world’s best and brightest emerging academics to undertake innovative research that contributes to the common good, tackling our greatest challenges of climate change, health and sustainability. 


Recently our SABII co-leads, Professor Julie Leask and Dr Kerrie Wiley, took part in a series of researcher videos with Sydney ID – the Sydney Infectious Disease Institute.

This is Julie’s video about vaccine uptake research:

This is Kerrie’s video about her research into how people think and feel about vaccinating humans and animals:

Take a look at the other researcher videos here to find out about the amazing work Sydney ID researchers are doing.

Conference season!

A large chunk of the SABII team were away over the last fortnight to attend conferences.

Julie headed to Bangkok to present at VARN2023 – the Vaccine Acceptance Research Network’s 2023 conference. Julie joined a plenary panel discussion titled “Challenges of Online & Offline Circulating Misinformation Relating to Zero-Dose Children and Vaccine Introduction“. The other panellists were Adidja Amani, from the WHO Regional Office for Africa; Ana Bottallo, journalist from Brazil; Farah Naz Qamar, Associate Professor from Pakistan; and Joe Smyser, CEO of The Public Good Projects.


Last week was the annual CDIC 2023 (Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference) in Perth, Western Australia.

Rebika, Adeline, Julie, Kerrie – at the CDIC in Perth.
Kerrie Wiley with 4th year vet student, Jessica Kropich-Grant, who presented collaborative work done by the School of Public Health and the Sydney Vet School.
Julie Leask, presenting at CDIC2023 about her study on journalists’ experiences of reporting the pandemic.

Recent SABII Activities

Last week, instead of our usual team meeting, the SABII crew were all busy typing away on our laptops. We organised a half-day writing retreat (a.k.a. ‘Shut Up and Write’ morning) where we all worked on a current writing project without interruption. We smashed out several pomodoros and by all accounts, we were very productive. Go team! We’ve got another writing session lined up for next month.

June Writing Retreat. Look at those concentrating faces!

When we’re not working hard, you can often find us sharing a meal or coffee on campus. Here we are a couple of weeks ago, celebrating Kerrie’s ‘Maker and Shaper’ award. Congratulations again, Kerrie! Very well deserved.

Left to right: Kerrie, Emma, Pen, Addy, Rebika.

Congratulations Addy and Kerrie!

The SABII team sends a big congratulations to Adeline Tinessia, who graduated last week with a Master of Global Health. Congratulations, Addy! We’re glad to have you on the team.

Black and white photograph of Dr Kerrie Wiley

We would also like to acknowledge Dr Kerrie Wiley who has been awarded a Faculty of Medicine and Health “Makers and Shapers” award for Outstanding Research (individual) category.  Key achievements noted in Kerrie’s nomination include: 

    What a fantastic recognition of all your achievements. Well done, Kerrie!!