Media release: More than 70,000 Australian children are not fully immunised
Media ReleaseMedia release: More than 70,000 Australian children are not fully immunised (PDF 145 KB)
Rates of child immunisation are reassuringly high in many parts of Australia, while there are other communities where levels are low enough to increase the risk that some contagious diseases may spread.
The second Healthy Communities report from the National Health Performance Authority has found high rates of child immunisation, with more than 95% of children fully immunised in some local areas. At the same time, there are still almost 77,000 children across Australia who are not fully immunised.
Released today, the report, Healthy Communities: Immunisation rates for children in 2011-12, breaks immunisation rates down into the 61 areas covered by the new network of Medicare Locals, as well as by about 325 smaller units of geography (called “statistical areas”). It measures the percentages of children who were considered fully immunised at 1year, 2 years and 5 years in 2011-12.
The report has found there were 32 of the 325 statistical areas in 2011-12 in which children who had not been fully immunised were most at risk of being exposed to contagious diseases such as measles and whooping cough.
In these areas, the percentages of children fully immunised were 85% or less in at least one of the three age groups. In contrast, the percentages of children fully immunised were 95% or more in at least one of the three age groups in 77 of the 325 statistical areas.
The report shows there were a number of Medicare Local catchments where immunisation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were very high. At the same time, there were some other catchments where immunisation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were low.
Immunisation is an important tool in the fight against contagious diseases. Vaccination protects individuals against diseases such as measles, whooping cough and meningitis (when caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b). It also protects those who are too young to be vaccinated, or who are more vulnerable to serious complications due to underlying medical conditions, by reducing the risk of spread across the community.
The Council of Australian Governments has set performance benchmarks for child immunisation, under which states and territories are expected to maintain or improve their respective immunisation rates for children aged 4 years (measured at 5 years), for Indigenous children at 1, 2 and 5 years, and in areas of agreed low vaccination coverage.This report measures the baseline from which future performance will be assessed.
The report shows:
- There were much lower rates of children fully immunised at the oldest age group. Among all 5 year olds, 23 of 61 Medicare Local catchments recorded less than 90% fully immunised. This was a much larger number of catchments than for all children aged 1 year (two out of 61 Medicare Local catchments) and 2 years (three out of 61 Medicare Local catchments)
- Percentages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fully immunised were lower than for all children. There were 12 Medicare Local catchments in which less than 80% of Indigenous children were fully immunised in at least one of the three age groups, compared to none for all children. There were eight out of about 55 Medicare Local catchments where the percentages of Indigenous children who were fully immunised in one or more of the three age groups were 75% or lower
- Some Medicare Local catchments had several hundred children who were not fully immunised, and who could therefore catch and pass on infections to others. There are Medicare Local catchments where more than 1000 children aged 1 year, 2 years or 5 years are not fully immunised.
It is important to note that the data were collected while Medicare Locals were still being set up, so the report provides a baseline for future comparisons and does not reflect on the performance of the new organisations to date.
National Health Performance Authority CEO Dr Diane Watson said the report would help clinicians, health managers and others to work out where further work was most needed.
“The report shows we have done well to protect children in most local areas, and is intended to help local communities better target their efforts,” Dr Watson said.
“The report also shows that while there are many areas where high percentages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are fully immunised, at the same time there are a number of other communities where Indigenous children are not benefiting from the full health protection that vaccines provide.”
The National Health Performance Authority was established under the National Health Reform Act 2011 as an independent agency that reports regularly on the comparable performance of health care organisations.
The Authority bases its reports on 48 indicators agreed by the Council of Australian Governments.
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View Healthy Communities: Immunisation rates for children in 2011-12
Page currency, Latest update: 11 April, 2013