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Improving understanding of COVID-19, measles, rubella, hepatitis B and dengue epidemiology in Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, immunisation is key to protecting people against diseases such as measles, rubella and hepatitis B and is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination is available through government health services in Timor-Leste, but there is substantial variation in the uptake of different vaccines across different municipalities.

A national seroprevalence study, launched recently, aims to understand the extent of immunity to vaccine preventable diseases, including COVID-19, measles, rubella, hepatitis B and dengue, in Timor-Leste. The study team will visit randomly selected households from every municipality in the country and more than 5,000 people will be invited to participate.

Seroprevalence studies provide estimates of antibody levels against infectious diseases and are considered the gold standard for measuring population immunity due to past infection or through vaccination.

This study will be carried out by Menzies School of Health Research through the ARIA-RISE project in partnership with the Ministry of Health Timor-Leste, Timor-Leste National Health Laboratory, ARIA and NCIRS, funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security at Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Researchers from Menzies School of Health research collect sample from study participants
Researchers from Menzies School of Health research collect sample from study participants (Photo supplied)


Principal Investigator Dr Nelson Martins noted it is very important to understand how many people have immunity to these infectious diseases in the community, in order to provide evidencebased data to guide public health policy and strategies to control and subsequently, eliminate these diseases in Timor-Leste.

Co-Investigator Dr Sarah Sheridan agrees that study findings are likely to help strengthen Timor-Leste’s ability to efficiently prevent future outbreaks of diseases such as measles and rubella by enabling targeted vaccination drives in non-immune populations.

As Timor-Leste has experienced significant community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, determining what proportion of the population have evidence of antibodies against COVID-19 from either infection or vaccination, will help with planning for the ongoing public health response.

Read more about the research from the Menzies team here

To learn more about ARIA-RISE projects,click here

Media release courtesy of Menzies School of Health.