Vaccination rates still too low in some areas: NHPA

vaccine vial and needle

Australia has recorded improvements in the percentages of children fully immunised in some local areas in 2014–15, the NHPA has revealed, but there are still several areas where rates remain potentially too low to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

The National Health Performance Authority‘s new report and accompanying data on child immunisation rates for 2013–15 by local area shows in 2014–15, among the 31 Primary Health Network areas set up last year, the percentages of one-year-old children fully immunised ranged from 94% to 88%.

However by looking at smaller geographic areas such as postcodes, the variation in immunisation rates for one-year-olds was found to be much larger: from 98% fully immunised in one postcode to as low as 73% in another.

More than 1,200 postcodes were found to have rates below 95%, and more than 100 had rates below 85%.

In 2014, the Australian Chief Medical Officer and all state and territory chief health officers agreed to a national aspirational target for 95% of all children to be fully immunised, to ensure communities are protected against potentially dangerous illnesses such as measles and whooping cough.

The report shows 84,571 children aged one, two and five were not fully immunised in 2014–15. The report is accompanied by an interactive web tool, which allows users to easily find data on the percentage of children fully immunised in their area.

The report shows that in 2014–15:

  • across local areas (Statistical Area Level 3), the percentage of one-year-old children fully immunised ranged from 97% in the Snowy Mountains (part of the South Eastern NSW PHN area) to as low as 83% in Richmond Valley (part of the North Coast PHN area in NSW); and
  • across postcodes, the percentage of one-year-old children fully immunised ranged from 98% in postcode 7050 (Kingston and Kingston Beach, Tasmania) to as low as 73% in postcode 2483 (Brunswick Heads and surrounds, North Coast NSW). There were 29,717 children aged 1 year not fully immunised in 2013–14, compared to 26,671 in 2014–15.

When considering change over time, the report finds that between 2013–14 and 2014–15 across local areas (SA3s), the most significant increase was seen in Outback North and East (SA), which increased its percentage of one-year-old children fully immunised from 85% to 93%.

Next came Surfers Paradise (Qld), which increased its percentage of one-year-old children fully immunised from 84% to 90%, and the Eastern Suburbs (in Sydney, NSW), which increased from 86% to 91%.

Some improvements were also seen for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Immunisation rates for one-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children significantly increased in seven out of 49 geographic areas where data were available, and decreased in none.

Performance Authority CEO Dr Diane Watson says today’s new information places a spotlight on those parts of the country where immunisation rates were high and low – allowing health professionals to better target strategies specific to those communities and parents and carers to find out about immunisation rates in their local area.

“The improvements we have seen so far are very welcome. What we really want to see now are similar improvements in so many local areas where immunisation rates have remained largely unchanged over the past year,” Dr Watson says.

“Today’s new information shows improvements in a number of communities protecting our youngest children and those ready to enter school. But there remain vulnerable communities that need better protection.”

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