A program of research to optimize public health immunization programs

Vaccines and immunization programs are the best way to prevent infectious diseases, improve child health, and save lives. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, vaccines have saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. Through immunization, we have eliminated smallpox and have nearly eliminated eight other deadly diseases of childhood, including chickenpox and some kinds of pneumonia and meningitis. We need to continue to immunize all children so that we maintain high levels of protection throughout communities, which will prevent these diseases from re-emerging. Despite having province-wide immunization programs in place, not everyone gets vaccinated, as shown by several disease outbreaks in the past few years.

Dr. Julie Bettinger is working to address key questions about vaccines and immunization programs to ensure optimal disease protection in the population. Her research assesses the effectiveness of existing vaccination programs, evaluates the effectiveness of new vaccines, and also studies the best way to deliver them to children, adults and communities. Her approach uses quantitative and qualitative methods and includes collecting and analyzing surveillance data on select vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccine-adverse events from the Canadian Immunization Monitoring Program Active, an active surveillance network in 12 pediatric centers across Canada.

Dr. Bettinger’s research also focuses on evaluating the safety and effectiveness of vaccines through grant-funded clinical trials and observational studies and promoting improved immunization uptake through qualitative studies that assess the factors affecting vaccine use. Her work is used by local, provincial, and national public health decision makers, other research scientists, health care providers, and the public. This work, which is conducted at the Vaccine Evaluation Center at the Child and Family Research Institute and BC Children's Hospital, will create a centre for applied, population-based immunization research unique to BC and Canada.