Australian experts working with our neighbours to support COVID-19 vaccination

Sarah Sheridan and Joshua Francis at NITAG, Timor-Leste

Australian experts working with our neighbours to support COVID-19 vaccination

Australia is working with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health (MoH) to support COVID-19 vaccine roll out plans. Dr Sarah Sheridan, a public health physician with expertise in applied epidemiology and vaccine preventable disease control, has been deployed to Timor-Leste to support MoH planning and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine deployment in Timor-Leste.

Her work will complement the efforts of key partners in Timor-Leste supported by Australia including Menzies School of Health Research, WHO, UNICEF and Gavi.

“The pandemic has demonstrated to us just how crucial global vaccination programs are. It is a privilege to be working in-country with collaborators from Australia and beyond to support the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and subsequent vaccine programs”, said Sarah.

Since arriving in Timor-Leste, Sarah has, alongside Dr Josh Francis and other members of the Menzies School of Health Research team been involved in delivering education sessions on AstraZeneca vaccine to health care staff at the National Hospital, Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, in Dili.

Also in collaboration with the Menzies School of Health Research and WHO, Sarah has been supporting the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) Timor-Leste in the review of recent evidence on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccination program was launched on Wednesday 7 April, World Health Day, and is currently being provided to essential workers, including health workers throughout Timor-Leste.

Sarah has been deployed by Australia's National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) where she focuses on providing technical support for the development of immunisation policy and practice.

NCIRS is Australia's national centre of excellence in immunisation research and surveillance providing independent expert advice on issues related to immunisation, to inform policy and planning for immunisation services in Australia and has played a key role in supporting Australia's COVID-19 response and vaccination strategy.

NCIRS also hosts the Australian Regional Immunisation Alliance (ARIA), a consortium of more than 20 researchers that will provide technical and capacity-building support in the Indo-Pacific region including the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Member organisations of ARIA include the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Menzies School of Health Research, the University of Sydney, University of Melbourne, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Burnet Institute, Australian National University, Kirby Institute, The University of New South Wales and Telethon Kids Institute and others.

Support for Sarah’s deployment will be provided through a partnership with Australian Government's Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security (CHS), which funds the work of ARIA.

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Photo Caption: Dr Josh Francis (left) and Dr Sarah Sheridan (centre) with Dr Celia Gusmao (obscured) and Dr Danina Coehlo (right) from NITAG Timor-Leste. Credit: NCIRS.