” Free vaccinations under the National Immunisation Program can be accessed through community controlled Aboriginal Medical Services, local health services or general practitioners (see part 2 below)
Health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians continue to be a priority for Australian governments.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are significantly more affected by: low birth weight, chronic diseases and trauma resulting in early deaths and poor social and emotional health.
Historically, immunisation has been and remains, a simple, timely, effective and affordable way to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples health, delivering positive outcomes for Australians of all ages.
Reports that focus on vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) and vaccination coverage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are published regularly by the National Centre for Immunisation Research (NCIRS).
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The federal government is spending $5.5 million to encourage parents to vaccinate their children.
Specific info about Aboriginal health and Immunisation see part 2
Health Minister Greg Hunt says while more than 93 per cent of five-year-olds are fully vaccinated, immunisation rates in some parts of Australia remain low.
The “Get Facts about Immunisation” campaign, launched at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital yesterday , will target parents in these areas through child care centres and social media.
Immunologist Ian Frazer says vaccinating a child protects not just them but the wider community.
“We still see cases of disease outbreaks, particularly in areas of low immunisation coverage, so it’s important immunisation rates are as high as possible,” he said in a statement.
“A parent will never know when their child may come into contact with someone who has got one of these infections.”
What is immunisation?
Immunisation is a safe and effective way of protecting your child against serious diseases.
Immunisation protects your child from harmful infections before they come into contact with them. It uses their body’s natural defences to build resistance to specific infections. When they come in contact with that disease in the future, their immune system remembers it, and responds quickly to prevent the disease from developing.
After immunisation, your child is far less likely to catch the disease. If your child does catch the disease, their illness will be less severe and their recovery quicker than an unimmunised child.
Immunisation or vaccination – what’s the difference?
‘Vaccination’ means getting a vaccine – either as an injection or an oral dose.
‘Immunisation’ is the term for both the process of getting the vaccine and becoming immune to the disease as a result.
Australia’s National Immunisation Program
The Australian Government funds the National Immunisation Program , which provides vaccines against 17 diseases, including 15 diseases important in childhood.
How immunisation works
Vaccines stimulate the body’s natural defences
Children come into contact with many germs, including bacteria and viruses each day and their immune system responds in various ways to protect the body. Vaccines strengthen the body’s immune system by training it to quickly recognise and clear out germs (bacteria and viruses) that the vaccination has made them familiar with.
When you’re vaccinated, your body produces an immune response. This is how your body defends itself against bacteria and viruses and other harmful substances.
When you come in contact with that disease in the future, your immune system remembers it. Your immune system responds quickly to prevent the disease from developing.
Without a vaccine, a child can only become immune to a disease by being exposed to the germ, with the risk of severe illness. Sometimes your child will need more than one dose of a vaccine. This is because a young child’s immune system does not work as well as an older child or adult. The immune system of young children is still maturing.
Vaccination helps to protect the community from contagious diseases.
The National Immunisation Program has further details about how vaccines help immunity.
Part 2 : Aboriginal health and Immunisation
A number of immunisation programs are available for people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. These programs provide protection against some of the most harmful infectious diseases that cause severe illness and deaths in our communities.
Immunisations are provided for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in the following age groups:
- Children aged 0-five
- Children aged 10-15
- People aged 15+
- People aged 50+
Free vaccinations under the National Immunisation Program can be accessed through community controlled Aboriginal Medical Services, local health services or general practitioners.
Children aged 0-five
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-five should receive the routine vaccines given to other children. You can see a list of these vaccines in the Children 0-five page.
In addition, children aged 0-five of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent can receive the following additional vaccines funded under the National Immunisation Program:
An additional booster dose of pneumococcal vaccine is required between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia continue to be at risk of pneumococcal disease for a longer period than other children.
This program does not apply to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania or the Australian Capital Territory, where the rate of pneumococcal disease is similar to that of non-Indigenous children.
This vaccination is given because hepatitis A is more common among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia than it is among other children. Two doses of vaccine are given six months apart starting over the age of 12 months.
The age at which hepatitis A and pneumococcal vaccines are given varies among the four states and territories.
From 2015, the flu vaccine will be provided free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged six months to five years is available under the National Immunisation Program. The flu shot will protect your children against the latest seasonal flu virus.
Some children over the age of five years with other medical conditions should also have the flu shot to reduce their risk of developing severe influenza.
Children aged 10 – 15
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 10-15 should receive the following routine vaccines given to other children aged 10-15:
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (whooping cough) (dTpa)
People aged 15+
Pneumococcal vaccines are free for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from 50 years of age, as well as those aged 15 to 49 years who are at high risk of invasive pneumococcal disease.
Due to disease burden influenza vaccines are free for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged six months to five years old and 15 years old or over. The flu shot will protect you against the latest seasonal flu virus.
- Technical information on each of the routine and additional vaccines available to people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent is available in Part 3.1 of the Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition 2013.
- Vaccination for our Mob, a report prepared by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, describes the national picture of vaccine coverage and vaccine preventable disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- For information about vaccination in your area, contact your state or territory health department.