MIND the Vax Gap: Measuring Immunisation in NeuroDiverse populations and developing an intervention to improve uptake

Research Opportunity
PhD students
Department / Centre
Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Associate Professor Margie Danchin margie.danchin@rch.org.au Personal web page
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Alexandra Ure alexandra.ure@unimelb.edu.au Personal web page
Dr Jessica Kaufman jess.kaufman@mcri.edu.au Personal web page

Summary We are seeking a high quality clinical graduate (ie doctor, nursing, psychologist or allied health) to contribute to a mixed methods study focused on vaccine hesitancy and uptake among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their siblings. This is the first study in Australia to 1) assess vaccine hesitancy and vaccine uptake among children with ASD and their siblings; 2) identify barriers and facilitators to uptake; and 3) design and pilot a tailored intervention to reduce hesitancy and increase uptake in this vulnerable population.

Project Details

ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition of unclear aetiology that is common in Australia, affecting approximately 164,000 or 4% of the population. It is generally diagnosed in the pre-school years. While studies have repeatedly refuted an association between ASD and vaccines, particularly MMR, up to 10% of Australian parents or expectant mothers are still concerned about an ASD-MMR link.

Recent research from the US has shown that children with ASD and their younger siblings have lower rates of vaccine uptake than children without ASD, leaving them vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). However, little is known about current levels of vaccine hesitancy and uptake among children with ASD and their siblings in Australia. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the perceived ASD-MMR link is the primary factor influencing uptake and hesitancy in this population, or whether other factors, such as behavioural challenges or anxiety, may be implicated. By comparing data for families with ASD and with Down Syndrome (DS), a neurodevelopmental condition with no perceived link and a clear genetic cause, we will be able to develop and pilot an intervention that specifically targets identified barriers and influencing factors unique to ASD to improve vaccine uptake.

This study will involve several phases and methods including a quantitative survey, qualitative intervention development process, and quantitative pilot study to assess acceptability, feasibility and preliminary impact of the intervention. A larger randomised controlled trial may follow.

Our preferred candidate will have a clinical background and will have an interest in social science, behavioural research and/or mixed methods research.

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health, Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine

Research Opportunities

PhD students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.

Department / Centre


Research Node

Royal Children’s Hospital/Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

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