• To determine whether pneumococcal immunisation with 23vPPV (Pneumovax) generates an adequate immune response in Indigenous adolescents and adults.

To compare the proportion of participants who have an “adequate” immune response to 23vPPV one month after vaccination:

  • between Indigenous persons receiving a first dose and Indigenous persons receiving a second dose
  • between Indigenous persons receiving a first dose and non-Indigenous persons receiving a first dose.

Indigenous Australians experience a very high burden of pneumococcal disease, with the 15-49 year age group 10 times more likely to have Invasive Pneumococcal Disease (IPD) than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

In view of this, the 23-valent polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine (23vPPV) has been recommended and provided free in the Northern Territory (NT)since 1995 for Indigenous adults. Despite this, a reduction in IPD has not been noted.

Our study is looking at how good a persons protection is after having the Pneumovax and whether the current timing of the vaccine is giving the best possible protection. We aim to recruit 300 people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) aged 15-64 years and measure their immune response before and after the vaccine.

Implications for policy and practice:

By looking at the immune responses, we hope this study will contribute substantially to the evidence base for pneumococcal vaccine policy for Indigenous Australians and other high risk population groups receiving multiple doses of 23vPPV.

Our research has found:

Evidence suggestive of impaired immune responses following repeated immunisation with the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) among the study participants has been presented at national and international conferences. A manuscript is in preparation for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

Chief Investigator:
  • Associate Professor Sue Skull 
Contact information:
Project dates:

Recruitment for particpants in this study has been completed.

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
  1. Skull, S., Licciardi, P., Balloch, A., Leach, A., Moberley, S., Carapetis, J., et al. (2010). Immune hyporesponsiveness following repeat pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV) in Indigenous Australian adults and adolescents. 12th National Immunisation Conference. Adelaide, 2010 (conference abstract).
  2. Licciardi, P.V., Balloch, A., Moberley, S., McKinnon, M., Mulholland, E.K., Andrews, R., et al. (2010). Indigenous Australians have impaired immune responses following repeated immunization with the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (23vPPV). 7th International Symposium on Pneumococci and Pneumococcal Diseases (ISPPD 7).  Tel Aviv, Israel (oral abstract).