The aim of this project is to explore how Australians from specific social and community groups experience and understand immunity in the age of global pandemics, such as COVID-19, MPX (Monkey Pox), influenza and other respiratory infections). Findings will contribute to better understandings of how recent major infectious disease outbreaks have influenced these communities’ meanings and practices around immunity, specifically concerning disease management and prevention and the role played by health communication, public health, and community support initiatives.

Research Centre

Centre for Social Research in Health

Research Area

Hepatitis and Harm Reduction  |  HIV and Sexual Health  |  Sexuality, Health and Education

This sub-study is an extension of the ‘AUSTRALIANS’ EXPERIENCES OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS: A SOCIAL RESEARCH STUDY’ (HREC approval number: HC200292), in which a strong theme of concepts of risk in relation to immunity emerged following semi-structured interviews with Australians (n=40) in the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study included a diverse range of Australians across age groups and geographical locations but did not include many participants from communities who are especially vulnerable to viral infection such as people living with blood borne viruses or those involving close physical contact with others. Furthermore, since the last set of interviews for this study was conducted (September/October 2021), there has been an outbreak of MPX in Australia, which has particularly affected gay men and other men who have sex with men. Specifically, the new extension of the study seeks to interrogate this emerging theme of risk and immunity in more detail to ascertain how specific communities targeted in responses to these new and recurring viral infections understand and practice immunity. This is important, as their experiences may differ significantly than those of the general Australian population given that they have consistently been the subject of specific public health interventions and/or have been identified as vulnerable to infection risk. It is also known that strong community ties and advocacy has been extremely successful in managing infectious diseases, and the study aims to identify how the most recent viral outbreaks have been managed by these communities to highlight best practice for health education and promotion when future outbreaks occur.

The research questions that this study seeks to address are:

1. What does the concept of ‘immunity’ mean for these participants?

2. Has this changed for them over their life course, and what experiences have contributed to this change?

3. How does this concept fit into their broader understandings of health or ill-health?

4. What practices do they engage in to strengthen or protect their immune systems? (e.g., vaccination, medication, infection prevention practices, general good health practices)

5. How have health communication, public health and community support initiatives helped or hindered participants’ efforts to keep well?