Sheena G. Sullivan

Dr. Sheena Sullivan is an infectious diseases epidemiologist, with a focus on viral respiratory pathogens. She completed an MPH at the University of Western Australia in 2002 and her PhD in 2011 at UCLA.  She is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Epidemiology with the UCLA Fielding Schools of Public Health. Since 2011 she has led the epidemiology group at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia, where she provides advice to the WHO and the Australian government on influenza epidemiology, burden and vaccine effectiveness. She also holds honorary appointments with the University of Melbourne and is a Principal Public Health Surveillance Advisor for the Victorian Department of Health in Australia, where her work focuses on improving surveillance for notifiable respiratory diseases and public health planning. She previously worked for several years with the Chinese Center for HIV/STD Prevention and Control in Beijing, where her work focused on understanding stigma towards people with HIV and methadone treatment outcomes. 


  • BSc (hons), Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia (1998)
  • MPH, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (2002)
  • MS, University of California, Los Angeles, USA (2009)
  • PhD, University of California, Los Angeles, USA (2011)

Areas of Interest

Dr Sullivan currently works with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia.  This is one of 5 centers around the world tasked with influenza virological surveillance for the purpose of informing influenza vaccine development. The Centre is also involved in surveillance and research on respiratory syncytial virus and SARS-CoV-2.  

Vaccine effectiveness: Her primary focus has been on using sentinel influenza surveillance data from around Australia to estimate influenza vaccine effectiveness and to understand the validity of the methods used to conduct these studies.  She is a recognized expert in the use of the test-negative study design to estimate vaccine effectiveness and provides annual influenza vaccine effectiveness estimates to the Australian government and the WHO using Australian surveillance data.

Sero-epidemiology studies: Mounting evidence suggests that repeated influenza vaccination attenuates effectiveness and immunogenicity. Dr Sullivan leads a large multi-site cohort study to identify the underlying immunological effects of repeated influenza vaccination. She is also involved in studies to understand how immune system priming by vaccination versus infection influences antibody decay and subsequent risk of infection. These studies now also extend to SARS-CoV-2.

Burden of respiratory diseases: Using administrative and surveillance data, Dr Sullivan has led studies to estimate the mortality and hospitalisation burden of influenza and COVID-19. COVID-19 has highlighted that the burden of infectious disease may not be limited to mortality and morbidity immediately following infection but can have longer term impacts on health, such as long COVID.

Health equity: COVID-19 has also highlighted tremendous health disparities among culturally and linguistically diverse communities. These communities are over-represented in the healthcare workforce, which represents a vulnerability in disease control. Greater understanding of the intersection between diverse communities and essential services is important for public health and pandemic planning and response. 

Aged care: Outbreaks of respiratory illness in long term aged care can have devastating consequences for residents. Dr Sullivan is working with providers and government to improve detection of outbreaks and mitigate their consequences through planning and point-of-care testing, and to understand the impact of outbreaks on the mental health of staff working in aged care.


Selected Publications