The World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) World Immunisation Week is a campaign in designed to raise awareness of the need to be fully immunised throughout your lifetime. This year’s theme is #VaccinesWork to underscore the difference they make to our health.
Consequently, it’s as good a time as any to be reminded of the importance of making sure you and your children receive vaccines on time. In Australia, we are lucky in that many of the life-threatening illnesses prevented by vaccines are now relatively rare. But unfortunately this can lead to complacency and when combined with some inaccurate fear mongering about discredited risks, it means that not everybody gets the protection that they should.
An Unwanted Return
Take for instance measles. While it’s true that most people recover from measles within a week, about 1 in 5000 people who get it, will die. Others complications include hepatitis, encephalitis, meningitis and vision loss. If a pregnant woman catches it can cause complications with the baby.
In 2014, the WHO announced that measles had been eliminated in Australia. So why do we still need the measles vaccine?
The answer is because there is a difference between elimination and eradication. Elimination means that there is no local strain of a virus circulating in a regional area, eradication means that it is no longer found anywhere.
With global travel, it’s not uncommon for people to pick up illnesses while travelling overseas and bring them home to spread, which is exactly what happened in the recent measles outbreak. With up to 22 confirmed cases, it is the first major outbreak of the disease in Sydney in five years and is understood to have come from a traveller returning from Bali.
A Matter of Life and Death
The results of not vaccination can be devastating. The WHO estimates that without vaccination there would be 2 to 3 million deaths globally every year from illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles. It also says that if we can increase vaccine rates around the world, another 1.5 million deaths could be avoided annually.
No wonder then that Australian governments on the state and federal level have gotten serious out maintaining our herd immunity. In case you are wondering, this refers to the percentage of the population who have been immunised against a given disease. It’s important to maintain high herd immunity because if fewer people can catch a contagious illness, the less likely it is to spread to others and so people who have medical conditions that mean they can’t get the vaccines themselves have some measure of protection.
How Can I Make Sure My Child’s Immunisation is Up To Date?
Since 2014, children in NSW cannot enrol in a child care facility without being fully immunised or having an approved exemption. The “no jab, no pay” policy, introduced last year, means that immunisation is also a prerequisite for receiving some family assistance payments.
With our busy lives, it can be easy for something like vaccine schedules to slip through the cracks, especially since it’s never fun for a child (or their parent) to get a jab. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are giving your child the best possible protection.
- Check What They’ve Already Had. The government maintains the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) to keep track vaccinations. You can download your child’s on the MyGov portal, in the Medicare section
- If You’re Behind, Talk to Your Doctor on How To Get Back On Track. All states and territories now offer a free catch-up service for children to get any of the vaccines on the National Immunisation Program they may have missed. If your child is over 10, this is only available until December 2017.
- Make Sure You Keep Up. The Save the Date To Vaccinate website includes a link to an Android or iPhone app you can download to make sure your child is getting what they need when they need it.
If you have any questions about what Caring4Kids can do for your child, please contact us.