Immunisation: 'success story' in preventable infectious disease fight
Family doctors are the most appropriate providers of immunisation, which is the safest and most effective way of giving protection against disease, according to AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler.
Put simply, says A/Prof Owler, immunisation saves lives.
"Immunisation is one of the great success stories of modern medicine and public health," he said.
"The battle against many infectious diseases has been won – some diseases have been eradicated, and a great many others are under control.
"Vaccinating against illness and disease is the easiest way a GP can protect adults, children, the elderly, and immuno-compromised members of the community from vaccine-preventable infectious disease."
Increasing immunisation rates
"Australian GPs – family doctors – have been crucial in increasing Australia's rates of immunisation, and will continue to do, especially as we are seeing rates fall in some geographical areas.
"The importance of immunisation from preventable diseases remains a relevant community message amid concerns about patchy immunisation rates across the country and continued rates of immunisation lower than the 95 per cent mark, which provides herd immunity."
A/Prof Owler said that rates of illness and death from vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen significantly since childhood vaccinations were introduced in Australia in 1932.
"As a result of Australia's immunisation program, diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenza type b, poliomyelitis, congenital rubella, and newly acquired hepatitis B are either no longer seen, or extremely rare," A/Prof Owler said. "But we cannot be complacent.
"The National Health Performance Authority report, Healthy Communities: Immunisation Rates for Children in 2012-13, identified that there are significant pockets within Australia where vaccination rates are well below the desired level.
"Where immunisation levels are low, illnesses such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough) can be more easily spread.
"Already this year we have seen six people in north Brisbane diagnosed with measles and more than 3,500 people diagnosed nationwide with pertussis.
Preventable infectious disease vulnerability
"It is clear that those within the community who are not fully immunised are vulnerable to contracting preventable infectious diseases.
"Vaccines protect against a range of viral diseases, bacterial infections, insect-borne and parasitic infections, and blood borne infections.
"It is important for people to protect against these conditions, especially when travelling overseas and when becoming elderly.
"Family doctors are the only immunisation providers who can provide the highest level and broadest penetration across the sphere of immunisation services in the safest environment.
"People wanting to ensure their immunisation schedule is up to date or wanting to know more about vaccination from medical experts should discuss this with their family doctor.
"Talk to your GP today about preventing the preventable," A/Prof Owler said.
Important immunisation information is available in the Australian Academy of Science publication, The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers.
General practitioners can help people reduce their risk of illness and disease, such as diabetes, heart attack, obesity, and depression.