Don’t fear, volunteer

Perth's Children's Hospital. Credit: Ashley Parker
Perth Children’s Hospital. Photo: Ashley Parker.

The global pandemic has highlighted the importance of being vaccinated.

Despite this, there is a shortage of volunteers for vaccine trials for other conditions, such as whooping cough, meningococcal and food allergies.

The Telethon Kids Institute based in Perth Children’s Hospital is the largest medical research facility in Australia.

The institute is dedicated to providing answers to childhood diseases and the improvement of overall health in the community through immunisations.

Leading research assistant Heidi Hutton acknowledges the reluctancy towards volunteering is usually due to the safety risks associated with the trials.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that these vaccines are already approved in other countries, they just need to be trialled here in Australia so that they can be licensed for use here.”

The institute is currently trialling vaccines to mitigate several childhood diseases.

“These trials also impact the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community,” Ms Hutton says.

“The more people that get involved, the greater chance we have in delivering an approved vaccine to fight these diseases.”

Mark McGowan on Facebook.

On August 26, Premier Mark McGowan praised the one million West Australians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Whilst the vast majority of Perth’s 1.9 million population have already been vaccinated, a hesitancy with vaccine trials remains.

Telethon’s research nurse Kieren Veale says people remain nervous about long term impacts.

“People tend to associate vaccine trials with drug trials, although the participant would never have repeated exposure and your body will tune out the contents very quickly,” she says.

The Institute must abide by strict Australian standards, that are reportable to the ethics committee and must be met before any trial is undertaken.

“The studies that are taken on are the ones we feel are the most valuable and important to the community,” Ms Hutton says.

Research Assistant Heidi Hutton. Video: Ashley Parker.

Ms Veale says the vaccine trials aren’t always an investigation of products, rather just the ability to have them accessible to a wider range of users.

When members of the community were asked how they felt about becoming involved in the trials, the majority were willing to take the vaccine once it had been approved, but didn’t feel comfortable with being a ‘guinea pig’.

Ms Hutton says they are incredibly grateful to all their volunteers.

“[They are] the silent group of people, that want to make a difference and these individuals can be described as exceptional.”

Categories: General, Health