Community forum on COVID-19 vaccines

Many of us are hesitant to be vaccinated, whether it be due to concerns about the speed in which the vaccine was developed and unknown long-term side effects, misinformation and a lack of information, or another reason.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is vitally important, as it not only protects the individual but also the community through herd immunity. For this reason, it is essential the vast majority of Australians, to be immunised against COVID-19.

We will be hosting a virtual public forum with some of our ANU and national experts to answer questions you may have and reduce hesitancy and worry in our community. 

The forum is open to everyone in our Canberra community, and their families and friends. If you can't make join the live session, it will be recorded and available on the website afterwards. 

Please note: The vaccination programs in other countries may vary. To understand what is happening in your country you should consult your government's health department or a local medical professional. 


Our panel 

Professor Michael Kidd AM 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Principal Medical Advisor, Australian Government Department of Health
Professor of Primary Care Reform, ANU College of Health and Medicine 

Professor Michael Kidd is an Australian academic, primary care researcher, educator and clinician.  He is the current Principal Medical Advisor and Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government Department of Health, and Professor of Primary Care Reform at the Australian National University. 


Professor Air Vice-Marshal (Ret) Tracy Smart AO 


Public Health Lead - COVID Response Office, ANU
Professor, Military and Aerospace Medicine, ANU College of Health and Medicine 

Professor Smart is a physician, health leader, and retired Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) senior officer. Her 35-year RAAF career culminated in the role of Surgeon General of the ADF. She is currently Professor, Military and Aerospace Medicine and Public Health Lead - COVID Response Office at the Australian National University. 

In addition, she is: Public Health Advisor and a Mental Health Steering Group member to the Australian Football League (AFL); a Member of the Australian Space Agency's Technical Advisory Group on Space Medicine & Life Sciences; President, Australasian College of Aerospace Medicine; Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne; and Strategic Advisor - LGBTI Inclusion, Department of Defence. 


Rachel Stephen-Smith 

ACT Minister for Health, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs 

Rachel Stephen-Smith is an Australian politician. She has been a Labor member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly since 2016, representing the electorate of Kurrajong. Rachel grew up in O'Connor in Canberra's inner-north, and she graduated from ANU with a Bachelor of Economics (Hon). 


Professor David Tscharke 

NHMRC Senior Research Fellow, HoD Immunology and Infectious Diseases, John Curtin School of Medical Research 

David Tscharke began his research career in Adelaide, studying interactions between the immune system and herpes simplex virus (HSV, the cause of cold sores). After gaining his PhD he worked in postdoctoral positions at Oxford University and then Imperial College London in the UK, working on projects related to viral pathogenesis and vaccine design. Following this, he moved to the US National Institutes of Health where he focused on understanding how the immune system recognises viruses and vaccines. Since mid-2017 he has been Head of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at JCSMR. 

His current research combines all the themes he has developed throughout his career, from understanding the dormant phase of infection with HSV to gaining new insight into the way our immune system recognises and responds to viruses and vaccines. 


Associate Professor Sanjaya Senanayake

Infectious Diseases Physician at Canberra Hospital
Associate Professor, ANU Medical School

Sanjaya Senanayake is an Infectious Diseases Specialist. Aside from his medical background, he has a keen interest in communication and he is an avid writer, having had published three fiction books and two medical books.


Dr Jason Agostino

Lecturer, Academic Unit of General Practice
Research Fellow, ANU Medical School

Jason is a GP and an epidemiologist who has worked mainly in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.  Since graduating from medicine he has worked in rural Australia with a focus on child health and does clinical work at Gurriny Yealamucka, an Aboriginal community controlled health service in the community of Yarrabah in far north Queensland and is a medical advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Contorlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

Through his training as an epidemiologist Jason worked at NACCHO and the National Health Performance Authority (NHPA) before coming to ANU.  At ANU his research focuses on improving prevention of cardiovascular disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and understanding the health needs of ACT's children. He has an interest in developing team-based community health care, and the use of routinely collected data to improve health services. He works with NACCHO on primary healthcare reform and is involved in national reporting through his position on the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare's Primary Care Expert Advisory Group.

He has supported the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector through the COVID-19 pandemic and sits on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Advisory Group and the Guidelines Leadership Group of the National COVID-19 Evidence Taskforce. He is also a member of the executive group overseeing the development of COVID-19 Primary Healthcare Guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Professor Simone Dennis

Head of School, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, ANU

Simone's expertise is in Social And Cultural Anthropology, and Public Health And Health Services.

Her research interests coalesce around phenomenologically-informed anthropological theories of embodiment, the sense, and power. These interests are presently explored in ethnographic work on Christmas Island, which is framed by the politics of nationhood in contemporary Australia and the ways in which they have played out for Christmas Island's multi-ethnic population; in work among Persian women migrants, who have fled Iran in the past two decades; in research conducted in the technoscientific spaces of major Australian research laboratories in which mice and rats feature as animal models for human disease research.

More recently, Simone has looked at smoking practice in Australian urban spaces, and the ways in which smoking entails and occasions social and corporeal relationships with others under increasingly legislated conditions governing space and behaviour and comportment within it.


Dr Eryn Newman

Senior Lecturer, Research School of Psychology, College of Health & Medicine, ANU

Eryn Newman is a cognitive psychologist in the Research School of Psychology. Before joining the ANU, she studied as a Research Scholar at the University of California, Irvine and then as a Postdoc at the University of Southern California. Eryn's research and training is in memory and cognition. She has studied human memory, belief formation and the role of various cognitive biases that influence what we think is true/credible. She is an expert in misinformation and has been doing research over the last 12 months on the role of information/media consumption and misinformation in the context of COVID-19. In 2020, along with many colleagues that study misinformation, collaborated on the Debunking Handbook explaining empirically supported and practical approaches in managing misinformation. 




Professor Mark Kenny

Professor Mark Kenny came to ANU after a high-profile journalistic career culminating in six years as chief political correspondent and national affairs editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times.

He is a fixture on the ABC's Insiders program, Sky News Agenda, and is a sought after commentator on radio programs across the country.

He has covered bilateral talks inside the White House, 10 Downing Street, Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the German Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt), the Japanese Prime Minister's Residence (The Kantei), The Vatican, and many others. He has also covered crucial summits including annual APEC and G20 meetings, G8, ASEAN and East Asia Summit, NATO, and the infamous Copenhagen climate talks in 2009.

Mark was made a Visiting Fellow at ANU in 2018 and took up a full-time academic post at the Australian Studies Institute in January, 2019. His research interests include national politics, comparative studies, democracy, and the rise of populism.