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Professor Tom Snelling

Head, Infectious Disease Implementation


The pathogen specific burden of hospitalisation for enteric and blood stream infection in children and young people in Western Australia

By bringing together the birth, hospitalisation, and laboratory records of children across Western Australia over the last 10 years, we will investigate which pathogens are responsible for enteric infection related health care presentations in children, who is most at risk, and what factors predict the severity of illness.

We will assess the overall impact of the rotavirus vaccination program introduced for children in Western Australia in 2007. 

SMS reminders to improve vaccination rates: a simple ‘nudge’ for a complex problem

New and modern strategies are needed to improve childhood vaccination rates and encourage parents to vaccinate their children on time.

The rapid increase of mobile phone ownership in Australia has created a promising means of communication to notify parents of due or overdue vaccines.

This trial is the first of its kind in Australia and will assess whether simple strategies, such as SMS reminders, are an effective way of improving vaccine coverage in WA.

Parents' Immunisation Needs and Attitudes - Antenatal (PINA-A Survey)

To understand the information needs and attitudes of pregnant women with regards to vaccination during pregnancy and after birth, we are surveying them in hospital during antenatal appointments.

Later, we contact them again to find out what vaccination decisions they have made after their babies’ births.

Case-cohort study of the association between pertussis vaccination in infancy and the risk of IgE-mediated food allergy

 In the late 1990s the type of pertussis vaccine (against whooping cough) used in Australia was changed from a whole cell vaccine to an acellular vaccine.  During this time period a rapid increase in the number of reported food allergy cases among children was also observed. 

This is a retrospective study looking at children diagnosed with food allergy and they type of vaccine they received.  This study aims to see if whole cell vaccine was protective against the development of food allergy. If this older vaccine is found to associated with protection against allergy this is likely to impact vaccine policy in Australia and around the world.

A phase IV, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial to optimise the delivery of RV1 rotavirus vaccine to Northern Territory Aboriginal infants

Since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in 2006 the discrepancy in the rate of rotavirus hospitalisations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children has actually increased.

The underlying reasons for this are not completely known, but both reduced vaccine immune responses and low vaccine coverage are likely to be important factors.

This study will assess the likely impact of an additional scheduled rotavirus vaccine dose between 6 to 12 months of age on the burden of diarrhoeal disease in Australian Indigenous children in the Northern Territory.

The role of midwifes in tackling vaccine hesitancy

This project benchmarks student midwives' attitudes to immunisation of pregnant women and children and pilots a novel intervention into midwifery tertiary education.

If midwives see immunisation as part of their role in providing personalised care to mothers and babies - facilitating and nurturing the natural processes of birth and breastfeeding - this can positively influence parental uptake of maternal and childhood vaccines.

This will be especially significant for parents who embrace natural lifestyles and trust midwives as key providers of knowledge and care.


Pneumococcus is the most important cause of bacterial pneumonia in children.

Vaccinating against pneumococcus appears to have reduced admissions for pneumonia overall, but its impact against severe pneumonia is not clear cut. Pneumococcus may have changed in recent years, shifting toward strains which are not impacted by vaccination.

We are working with UNSW on this multi-centre study in Australian children.We aim to work out how effective vaccination is for preventing pneumonia, and which strains of pneumococcus are responsible. This should help to improve the vaccine program.

The safety and acceptability of mixed whole cell/acellular pertussis vaccine schedules in infants to prevent sensitisation to food allergens: a pilot study

Whooping cough is reemerging as a serious health problem in Australia.  There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the whole cell vaccine against pertussis that used to be used in Australia may be better at protecting against whooping cough than the acellular vaccine currently in use.  In addition, there is evidence to suggest that the whole cell vaccine might protect against the development of allergy in children.  However, the vaccine was discontinued in Australia due to undesirable side effects. 

This is a pilot study to assess the acceptability of reintroducing one dose of the whole cell vaccine into the child immunisation schedule, and to assess the development of allergic potential among children receiving either the whole cell or accelluar vaccine.

Determinants of incomplete vaccination and non-vaccination among WA children

Incomplete uptake of vaccination remains a problem, with vaccine preventable diseases still occurring in Australia and other countries despite routine provision of childhood vaccination.

Understanding which parental beliefs contribute to incomplete vaccination might help to identify and prioritise opportunities to intervene. It will assess the acceptability, feasability and utility of potential strategies to increase vaccine coverage.

This project has surveyed WA parents to better understand beliefs and attitudes towards vaccination.

A randomised control trial of novel treatment strategy for the treatment of bronchiolitis in infants

Bronchiolitis, a virus infection of the lungs and airways, is one of the most common reasons for babies to need admission to hospital.

A new medicine appears effective for killing the viruses which cause bronchiolitis in the laboratory.The medicine has been shown to be safe in young children when used for other infections. We will test this new medicine in babies who have bronchiolitis, to see if it is safe and to see if these babies recover faster than babies who receive a placebo.

An effective treatment will help reduce the long term consequences of infection, and the impact on parents and the healthcare system.

A randomised, placebo-controlled trial of oral nitazoxanide for the empiric treatment of acute gastroenteritis among Australian Indigenous children

The study aims to assess the impact of oral nitazoxanide (antimicrobial) on the length of symptoms among Aboriginal children admitted to hospital with gastroenteritis aged between three months and five years old.

A total of 400 children will be enrolled from the Royal Darwin Hospital and Alice Springs Hospital. The children receive the nitazoxanide treatment or a placebo for three days.  Their symptoms of gastroenteritis (diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration) are assessed each day, as well as their readiness for discharge.

We will follow up the children for 60 days and at completion we will assess any differences between the two groups.