Tasmania moves on measles

Tasmania is set to roll out free measles catch-up vaccinations from GPs next week, before the program is expanded to pharmacies

As the state Government highlighted earlier this year, Tasmanians born during or after 1966 who have not received two measles-containing vaccinations, or who have not been infected with measles, are eligible for a free vaccination.

Infants aged 6 to 12 months who are travelling overseas to places where measles is circulating are also eligible.

“Public Health experts advise that people born before 1966 are likely to be immune following childhood infection,” said Minister for Health Sarah Courtney.

“Most people born after 1994 are likely to have received two doses of measles containing vaccines as a child, under the National Immunisation Program.

“Many people born between 1966 and 1994 will not have had measles or received two doses of a measles vaccine, which means up to 15% of these Tasmanians may not be immune.

“Due to fragmented childhood immunisation records for many people, anyone who is unsure of their vaccination status is encouraged to receive a booster dose of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.”

Pharmacists are expected to be able to offer the catch-up vaccine in the coming weeks, she said, following completion of an approved training program.

“Having pharmacists administer vaccinations will help to improve access for Tasmanians, particularly in regional areas,” Ms Courtney said.

The PSA welcomed this expansion of the scope of pharmacist-administered services in Tasmania, saying it has long championed a consistent approach in all states and territories for pharmacists to administer vaccines.

It said that the expansion helps bring Tasmania in line with other states and territories.

Tasmanian PSA Branch President Dr Ella Van Tienen said the range of vaccinations available through pharmacist immunisers now included dTpa and state-funded MMR for 16 years and older.

This is in addition to providing influenza vaccine to individuals aged 10 years and over.

“These vaccines targeting measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus are vital in saving lives and protecting the community from the spread of these potentially life-threatening diseases,” she said.

“We thank the Tasmanian Government for acting to protect our community by providing access to these vaccines for Tasmanians, and in particular for vulnerable people.

“Less than 40% of at risk people over 18 years are considered to be fully vaccinated. The availability of these vaccines through pharmacist immunisers benefits consumers due to the accessibility of community pharmacy and the convenience, it also benefits the health system through higher vaccination rates and cost savings.”

PSA has worked with the Tasmanian government to update its pharmacist training course to reflect the expanded scope, and said that trained pharmacists will start offering these additional vaccination services over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile Ms Courtney highlighted the importance the State Government places on vaccination.

“Measles is a highly infectious disease, which remains endemic in some countries. This means there is ongoing risk of imported cases from overseas visitors, as well as Australians returning home,” she said.

“The Hodgman majority Liberal Government is committed to protecting Tasmanians, and we have had huge success in our vaccination programs,” she said.

“Our meningococcal vaccination program last year, for example, saw record child immunisation rates in Tasmania, and our public campaigns to encourage Tasmanians to receive a flu shot have been highly successful.

“The Report on Government Services released in January this year also confirmed Tasmania is in the top three states nationally for each age cohort with respect to childhood vaccinations, including the best result in Australia for ages 60 to 63 months, rising to 95.5%.

“Tasmania this year also became the first state in Australia to allow children aged 10 and over to receive low-cost flu shots in many pharmacies.”

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