Dr Hambleton said that The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers booklet is a significant collation of the body of scientific evidence in support of immunisation, produced by one of Australia’s most highly respected independent scientific authorities.
“It has been prepared by the country’s leading scientists in the field of immunology and reviewed by some of Australia’s most prominent and esteemed science and medical figures,” Dr Hambleton said.
“The booklet will be an important reference for GPs and their patients, and it will be a valuable informative resource for the general public, public health services, schools and the media.
“Importantly, it will help counter the dangerous misinformation that is circulated by certain groups in the community who are opposed to immunisation.
“A small number of organisations, some with names that imply that they are authorities on immunisation, engage in non-scientific fearmongering that puts doubt in people’s minds about immunisation and poses threats to public health.
“The strong scientific evidence, clear explanations, and easy-to-understand language of the Academy’s booklet will reassure people, including conscientious objectors, about the safety and efficacy of immunisation and help ensure that Australia’s immunisation rates remain high,” Dr Hambleton said.
Dr Hambleton said that vaccination is one of the great success stories of modern medicine and public health.
“In the nearly 30 years that I have been practising medicine, the battle against many infectious diseases has been won – some eradicated, a great many under control.
“We no longer have iron lungs for polio victims or exclusive chest hospitals devoted solely to TB (tuberculosis) sufferers.
“Measles no longer circulates among the immunised population. There are virtually no cases of mumps or rubella in children anymore, and congenital rubella is exceptionally rare.
“Chicken pox has almost disappeared. Haemophylis influenza and meningococcal meningitis are rarely seen, and haemophylis life-threatening croup is a thing of the past.
“Hepatitis A is virtually eliminated, with particular benefits in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“The pneumococcal vaccine has changed the look of children’s wards from as recently as 2005.
“Diphtheria is a forgotten disease, and no family should lose a child to tetanus ever again.
“Nobody could ever forget the soul-destroying sound of a baby struggling to breathe with whooping cough, and hopefully nobody needs to hear it again if there is good herd immunity.
“These were all once common diseases and experiences for Australian families. Vaccination has brought great comfort and security to the health of the community and the Australian way of life,” Dr Hambleton said.
The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers is available on the Australian Academy of Science website at www.science.org.au/immunisation.html
- According to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR), in 2011 most one year olds (92%) and most two year olds (93%) were fully immunised, and this has been relatively stable since 2002;
- Coverage at five years of age has dropped to 89% - while this is below target, it is an increase from 2008 (79%);
- In terms of socio-economic status (SES), two year olds living in high SES areas had slightly lower levels of immunisation (91.6% compared with 93.7%);
- In 2012, Australia ranked 29 out of the 34 OECD countries for immunisation for one year olds (behind Hungary, Czech and Slovak Republics, and in front of NZ, Canada and Austria);
- Notification rates for measles, mumps and rubella decreased from 9, 2 and 18 notifications per 100,000 children in 1996 to 1.5, 0.4 and 0 respectively in 2011;
- Notifications for pneumococcal disease declined rapidly following the addition of the pneumococcal vaccine to the National Immunisation Program Schedule in 2001 (23 notifications per 100,000 in 2002 to just 7 per 100,000 in 2006); and
- Notification rates for meningococcal disease (invasive) peaked in 2001 at 8.1 per 100,000 children and have since decreased to 2.2 per 100,000 children in 2011.
26 November 2012
CONTACT: John Flannery 02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761
Kirsty Waterford 02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753