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Vaccines, tackling influenza and improving immunisation programs

18 June, 2018

The NIC held by the PHA will continue its strong focus on getting vaccines to those most in need, considering the lessons learned from the 2017 influenza outbreak, and will also take a closer look at Australia’s ‘No Jab, No Pay’ vaccine policy.

PHAA CEO Terry Slevin said, “The top priority for immunisation nationally is getting vaccines to those who need them most and for various reasons aren’t receiving them. Research being presented at the conference is helping us piece together the puzzle of why some populations in Australia are missing out, whether they are children or adults who are suffering illness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, groups in lower socioeconomic areas, migrants or refugees.”

“The severe 2017 flu season is under close examination, particularly because it resulted in so many cases for the elderly, another vulnerable group in need of protection from infectious disease,” Slevin said.

Yesterday at the conference Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy While acknowledged that while there has been unprecedented demand this year for the flu vaccine, the government will deliver 32% more flu vaccines in July this year compared to the same period in 2017.

Further focusing on the gains in immunisation, Slevin said “It’s great to see Australia’s reputation as a world leader in immunisation highlighted. For example, our national HPV infection rates have experienced a remarkable decline after the Australian Government first approved the roll-out of the HPV vaccine ten years ago.”

“Another positive example is the fact that 96.5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under five are now vaccinated. This is an important preventive health step which will help work toward closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,” Slevin added.

The National Immunisation Conference has so far brought a number of valuable insights into immunisation in Australia and abroad.

The importance of reaching socially disadvantaged groups with vaccine programs was highlighted throughout the day yesterday, and as Professor Peter McIntyre (who was awarded the PHAA National Immunisation Achievement Award) pointed out, this is a common cause behind Australian children who are going without routine vaccines, rather than anti-vaccination beliefs on behalf of their parents.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy explained to delegates that the Department of Health was finding new ways to target communities with low vaccine coverage, and where anti-vaccination sentiment was present there was an effort to inform and educate parents on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

The June 6 conference dinner will include the awarding of four separate immunisation grants of $20,000 from GSK. The grants are awarded to support innovation programs in childhood, adolescent and/or adult vaccines.

The welcome reception on June 5 was sponsored by the Australian Digital Health Agency which is currently involved in the management of the My Health Record three month opt-out period commencing on 16 July 2018. The My Health Record system has strong potential to improve national immunisation rates in Australia through improving patient records of vaccinations.

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