Australia’s trusted independent immunisation experts

Social science research is a core component of NCIRS’s work. The aims of social science research at NCIRS are to: 

  • seek insights on the behavioural, social, cultural and structural drivers of vaccine uptake 
  • investigate evidence-based approaches to improve vaccine uptake
  • inform immunisation policy and programs.

The NCIRS Social Science Unit conducts original research to achieve these aims using a range of methods, including qualitative interviews and focus groups, surveys and online intervention testing.

NCIRS also incorporates social science research and insights across a broad range of organisational activities, including communications, policy development, program evaluation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander immunisation, vaccine safety and immunisation in the Asia-Pacific regions.

The NCIRS Social Science Unit also collaborates and consults on a range of social science immunisation projects with local and international collaborators and consortiums (see ‘Other activities’).

Recent and current projects 

  • Aboriginal influenza vaccination study

    This is an exploratory study to understand family–provider communication needs related to influenza vaccination in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Social Science Unit is purposely approaching immunisation stakeholders and Aboriginal communities in geographically diverse areas of New South Wales (using qualitative methods) to gather and explore a range of perspectives.

    The team is conducting this study with cultural guidance from and in collaboration with the NCIRS National Indigenous Immunisation Coordinator (NIIC) and the NCIRS Cultural Governance Group (CGG).

    Summary of key findings and recommendations from phase 1 of this study.

  • COVID-19 vaccine safety communication

    The Social Science Unit is working with the WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety to produce guidelines on communicating about COVID-19 vaccine safety. Risk communication principles inform these guidelines, developed for health authorities and other vaccine safety stakeholders. NCIRS Professorial Fellow Julie Leask is leading this project.

  • COVID-19 vaccination messaging

    The NCIRS COVID-19 Vaccination Messaging Study aims to support acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines and positive vaccine intentions in key groups. One of the objectives of the study is to develop evidence-based public health messages to support COVID-19 vaccination programs.

    As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves and vaccines are deployed, it is important to understand people’s perceptions and attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccines. This is especially the case for people in high-risk and priority groups, who will be first in line to receive a vaccine. 

    The Social Science Unit is exploring NSW community perspectives on COVID-19 vaccines, and developing evidence-based messages that respond to these perspectives. Research findings will inform communications that support people’s ability to make informed decisions about vaccination, and help build public trust and confidence in a COVID-19 vaccination program. 

    One of the first outputs of the NCIRS COVID-19 Vaccination Messaging Study is a resource for organisations promoting COVID-19 vaccines to guide them in creating targeted communications and to address questions and concerns that people may have.

    The guide, informed by a review of global literature, highlights factors that may influence acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines. The guide also offers recommendations for developing COVID-19 communication materials.

    The guide is based on a longer report, which is available to organisations upon request. 

    Access the guide here

  • SKAI influenza update

    The Social Science Unit developed influenza vaccination resources for parents to enhance the Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) package. The team designed these resources to support parents’ influenza vaccination information needs and guide them in their decision to vaccinate.

Other activities 

  • Strategies to increase vaccination rates
    Tree of community informed strategies to increase childhood vaccination rates

    This resource provides a visual summary of some practical strategies (in 'tree foliage') that can be used improve childhood vaccination rates. 

    Access this resource here

    Print-ready version of the resource



    The Collaboration on Social Science and Immunisation (COSSI) is a collective of people from Australia and around the world who work collaboratively to improve vaccine acceptance and uptake by understanding barriers and enablers of immunisation. COSSI is an initiative of NCIRS and the University of Sydney, established in 2016. Members of the NCIRS Social Science Unit are on the COSSI Committee.

  • SKAI technical updates

    The Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) package comprises an eLearning Module and two websites, one for parents and one for immunisation providers. The Social Science Unit provides technical expertise, and works with the NCIRS Communications team to promote, update and disseminate SKAI. 


  • AusVaxSafety

    NCIRS and partners established AusVaxSafety in 2014 to monitor adverse events following influenza immunisation in children. Social science research will inform the next stage of the initiative to evaluate the surveillance system.

  • Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA)

    NCIRS established ARIA in 2019 in collaboration with experts and partners from multiple Australian universities and research institutes. Social science research is informing efforts to support immunisation activities in the Asia-Pacific regions. 

  • WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety

    NCIRS works with the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS)  on various projects. Social and communication science informed the development of guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine safety communication.

  • Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)

    NCIRS provides scientific research support to the ATAGI and the Immunisation and Communicable Diseases Branch of the Australian Government Department of Health. Social science research supports the development and implementation of national immunisation policies.

  • Student projects: past and present

    The NCIRS social science unit has supported a number of postgraduate, higher degree by research (HDR) scholars over the years. Some of the more recent students and projects are shown below.

    HDR scholar Institution     Project dates Project title Supervisors Funding Year of graduation
    Samantha Carlson
    The University of Sydney 2016-2020 Attitudes about and access to influenza vaccination in Australia: experiences of parents of children hospitalised for acute respiratory infection

    Julie Leask (Co-primary)

    Kristine Macartney (Co-primary)

    Helen Quinn


    NSW Ministry of Health under the NSW Health PhD Scholarship Program     2020
    Catherine King (PhD) The University of Sydney 2008-2018 (part-time) Influenza and influenza vaccination: examining parental perspectives and practices to inform vaccination policy and programs

    Julie Leask (Primary)

    Kerrie Wiley

    Partially supported by an ARC Linkage Grant (LP0884126) awarded to the PIVOT study


    Samantha Carlson (MPH) The University of Sydney 2015

    Discussing immunisation on Facebook: a pilot study


    Kerrie Wiley Self-supporting 2016
    Maria Chow 
    The University of Sydney 2010-2013 Psychological and social impact of influenza-like-illness in children on their families

    Julie Leask (Primary)

    Robert Booy

    Angie Morrow

    USyd International Scholarship     2013

    To view publications that resulted from their work, refer to the Publications page.

    If students are interested in being supervised by NCIRS social science staff, please send an email to: