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On the Tiwi Islands, researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research are trialling a combination of two vaccines already in use in the NT. They hope to protect children against a broader range of bacteria that cause ear disease, avoiding the need for long courses of antibiotics.
Over the next two years, 400 babies from remote NT communities will be inoculated. The trial aims to find the best vaccines for babies in the NT and to find out whether to start scheduling vaccines earlier.
Ear infections are a common childhood disease, however, it has been a long standing problem for Indigenous children who can spend up to two years throughout childhood with ear infections, compared to only three months for non-Indigenous children.
Many Indigenous children in remote Northern Territory (NT) communities cannot hear properly, which means they miss out on crucial education. Hearing is very important for speech and language development and resultant hearing loss from ear disease can have significant negative impacts into adolescence and adulthood.