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Nurses play key role in COVID-19 research

District contributes to ground-breaking COVID-19 vaccine study.

Two women with masks on standing apart
SydneyConnect Image: Ann Marie Vande More and Stephanie Hunt

Nurses Ann Marie Vande More and Stephanie Hunt relish the job they're doing.

"Research is so important. The outcomes can transform lives - not just in Australia but around the world," Ann Marie said.

They're members of a team from Sydney Local Health District who are involved in a collaborative, Australia-first research study into the way people develop immunity after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Vaccine, Infection and Immunology (VIIM) Collaborative Research Group will receive more than $4.5 million in funding from the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research over three years.

It's the first move into research for both nurses - with Ann Marie having worked at Marrickville Community Health Centre, while Stephanie worked at Balmain Hospital.

They're now based at the District's COVID-19 Vaccination Research Unit set-up within the NSW Health COVID-19 Vaccination Centre at RPA with the study investigator and medical lead, Professor Ian Caterson AM.

So far, nearly 500 people have volunteered to participate in the study which involves collecting and analysing their blood samples over the next five years.

Stephanie's role is to recruit and collect information about each participant including their age, gender, weight, height, temperature, blood pressure as well as their past medical history and any current medications.

"I love my job. I'm playing a small role in the study, collecting the raw data but I know that it'll contribute to our approach to COVID-19 in the future - like whether we'll need booster vaccinations," Stephanie said.

Ann Marie's role is to collect the blood samples from each participant during eight visits during the study to find out how long the immune responses to the COVID-19 vaccine persists.

"The people who have volunteered are looking for ways that they can contribute to bringing society back to some form of normalcy," Ann Marie said.

The District's Director of Research, Professor Warwick Britton AO, is a member of the VIIM Collaborative Research Group Steering Committee overseeing the study.

"Our District has a proud history of being at the forefront of innovation and research. We're partnering with vaccine, infection and immunology experts from across Sydney to help inform future policy decision-making about COVID-19 vaccines," Professor Britton said.

The District also has a second study – about the co-administration of the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine – in the pipeline.

The VIIM Collaborative Research Group includes experts from Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney Children's Hospital Network, NSW Health Pathology, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, the University of Sydney's Marie Bashir Institute, the University of NSW, Westmead Institute of Medical Research, the Centenary Institute and the Kirby Institute.

For the latest information about COVID-19, please visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/COVID-19