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Immunisation in Australia – filling the vaccine gaps

12 June, 2018

Immunisation through vaccines is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent infectious disease yet too many Australians are still missing out on routine vaccinations, said the PHAA on the first day of its biennial National Immunisation Conference (NIC) in Adelaide.

The conference theme ‘Immunisation for all – gaps, gains and goals’ highlights that while there have been definite successes for immunisation in Australia, there still exists significant gaps in vaccine coverage in the population. Professor Brendan Murphy, Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Department of Health will address conference delegates on these issues.

Terry Slevin, CEO of the PHAA stated the vital role of immunisation in controlling infectious disease, “Vaccines which immunise against serious infectious diseases have been one of the biggest public health successes in the past century and have prevented millions of deaths, severe illness or disability worldwide. While Australia is at forefront of countries in providing vaccines to the population through its National Immunisation Program, there are still too many people here who are not receiving standard vaccinations.”

Slevin continued, “Some Australians are still missing out on childhood vaccines when it is critical they are immunised against serious diseases such as whooping cough, measles and meningococcal disease. These diseases are still infecting parts of the population and sadly, this has even resulted in deaths in some cases which would have been entirely preventable through vaccination.”

“There can be multiple reasons why some people don’t receive vaccinations and this requires a comprehensive, targeted immunisation approach to reach these groups. In cases of childhood vaccination, this could mean better parent education and programs designed to reach at-risk children,” Slevin said. “We need to ensure vaccine coverage is encompassing socially disadvantaged groups in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, people in rural and remote communities, and recently migrated people. This is about equity of access to vaccines and it’s why nationally funded, long-term vaccine programs are so important,” Slevin added.

Professor Peter McIntyre from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance will also speak on how Australia can improve the delivery and funding of its immunisation programs following examples from similar countries such as Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Topics discussed at the conference will include vaccine safety, improving national coverage of vaccines, targeting atrisk groups, vaccination during pregnancy, vaccination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, whole-of-life immunisation, influenza control, and immunisation policies such as ‘No Jab, No Pay’.

The first day of the National Immunisation Conference will include the presentation of the PHAA National Immunisation Achievement Award. There will also be an oration on the 10-year progress of HPV vaccines (commonly known as Gardasil in Australia) by Professor Margaret Stanley OBE from the University of Cambridge.

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