Current Projects

  • Effectiveness and safety of recommended vaccines for pregnant women. Influenza can be serious in pregnant women and young infants. In addition to influenza vaccine programs, programs which provide free pertussis vaccine to pregnant women have been slowly introduced to developed countries over the past four years. While data from the UK and the US support the effectiveness, there are limited data available from other countries with maternal vaccine programs. I am currently leading a team of researchers to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of influenza and pertussis vaccines when given during pregnancy. By linking registry data in Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland, our team plans to measure the effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine and pertussis vaccines in protecting mothers and babies against severe infection. In addition to this population-based research, I am also collaborating with US cohorts to evaluate the safety of exposure to vaccines early in pregnancy. This information is important since it can be used to improve vaccine resources for pregnant women and their providers.
  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant women. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone; but in particular, we know the pandemic has impacted pregnant women. Disruptions to prenatal care in response to social distancing measures have likely resulted in reduced satisfaction with prenatal care and birthing experiences. Having had my first baby in April 2020, during the first spike in cases in the US, I experienced these disruptions firsthand. This has especially motivated me to investigate how the pandemic has impacted women during pregnancy and the postpartum period — as well as their families. Additionally, we now know that pregnant women are more likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms and maternal infection may pose issues for the fetus. My research aims to collect data from women who were pregnant during the pandemic to describe these experiences. Given the importance of disease prevention among pregnant women, I am also interested in collecting information from women on their perceptions of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Improving vaccination rates in the community. Recently, we developed a system which physicians could use to notify at-risk patients they are eligible for free influenza vaccine. We are piloting this system in doctors’ offices to see whether these reminders increase the number of individuals who get vaccinated each year. I am particularly interested to see how text reminders can improve influenza vaccine uptake in pregnant women, especially considering its recent success in the US.
  • Disparities in accessing immunization services. Although the benefits of vaccination have been well documented, not everyone has access to vaccines. While racial/ethnic disparities have been recently documented for immunization rates among pregnant women, I am particularly interested in place-based disparities. Our recent research has shown that women are less likely to receive an influenza vaccine during pregnancy if they reside in a rural area of the US. In collaboration with other members of the Southwest Rural Health Research Center, we are currently evaluated the importance of state policies and access to health insurance in relation to this gap – and working to extend this work to evaluating place-based disparities in childhood immunizations.