The last week of April each year is marked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as World Immunization Week.
In 2015, the Week’s purpose was to raise public awareness of how immunisation saves lives and to encourage people to vaccinate themselves and their children against deadly diseases.
The theme of World Immunisation Week 2015 was closing the gap.
The key messages were:
- Immunisation is widely recognised as one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions.
- Immunisation prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths worldwide every year
- Immunisation protects children against diseases for which vaccines have been available for many years, such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio and measles, as well as diseases such as pneumonia and rotavirus – two of the biggest killers of children under 5.
- Adolescents and adults can be protected against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis, and cancers (cervical and liver), thanks to new vaccines.
But, according to WHO, 1 in every 5 children globally is not vaccinated. In 2013, an estimated 21.8 million infants were not immunised.
Almost half of these children were from three countries – India, Nigeria and Pakistan – and in most cases were not being vaccinated because of:
- Inadequate supply of vaccines
- Lack of access to health services
- A shortage of accurate information about immunisation
- Insufficient political and financial support
In Australia, however the political support is what has recently been making news. The Federal Government has just released details of its $26 million budget booster to Immunise Australia.
The full package include’s incentive payments to GPs and other immunisation providers to identify children in their practice overdue for vaccinations and catch them up; improving public vaccination records and reminder systems; greater public awareness of the benefits of vaccinations; and the ‘no jab, no play, no pay’ policy – which abolishes the ‘religious exception’ loophole and denies access to childcare benefits and government family benefit payments to parents who don’t vaccinate their children.
But Minister for Health Sussan Ley says it is important to remember that complacency is a major reason for drops in immunisation rates, not just conscientious objection.
Ms Ley said at least 166,000 children were recorded as more than two months overdue for their vaccinations last year.
This figure is on top of Australia’s 39,000 conscientious objectors.
“(We) understand the stresses busy parents face every day and that many missed immunisations are unintentional, which is why we’re providing incentives and support to help keep children up to date with their vaccinations,” Ms Ley said.
“But there are parents intent on refusing to immunise their child and our ‘no jab, no play, no pay’ measure ensures they understand there is a significant price attached to their actions
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