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Improved Immunisation Rates Are A Shot In The Arm For Indigenous Health

But we haven't closed the gap until health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are equal to those of non-Indigenous people.

15/03/2017 3:48 PM AEDT | Updated 16/03/2017 7:53 AM AEDT
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"Vaccination coverage rates are the highest ever among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children entering school, and since 2009 there has been an increase in children fully immunised -- particularly at five years of age -- from 76.8 percent in 2008 to 95.2 percent in 2016."

The political needle recently swung to the issue of childhood vaccination, with a call for parents to do their own research before deciding if they would or should immunise their children.

The issue of childhood vaccination is too important to be left hanging as just another claim by a politician in a "post-truth" world, where facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

I believe it is important for parents to be fully informed of the medical facts before they make what can be life or death decisions affecting their children -- and the children of others.

Immunisation is the most significant public health intervention in the past 200 years because it provides a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of many diseases that cause hospitalisation, serious ongoing health conditions and, sometimes, death.

Since the introduction of vaccination for children in Australia in 1932, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen by 99 percent despite a threefold increase in the Australian population.

As Minister for Indigenous Health it is my job to work for better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country.

Immunisation is the most significant public health intervention in the past 200 years because it provides a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of many diseases that cause hospitalisation, serious ongoing health conditions and, sometimes, death.

Today is National Closing the Gap Day. We all want health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that are equal to those of non-Indigenous people. Until that happens we cannot claim to have a truly universal health system that meets the needs of all Australians.

This year's Closing the Gap Report has mixed results and provides us with an opportunity to consider our course and reinvigorate our commitment to this fundamental task. We are making some strides in tackling Indigenous health issues, however, we have to do more.

Immunisation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are improving. Five-year-old Indigenous children have higher immunisation coverage than non-Indigenous five-year-olds.

In December 2016, Australian Immunisation Register data showed that 95.20 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five were fully immunised, compared with 93.19 percent of all children of the same age.

These statistics confirm that we have nearly achieved the 2023 goal of 96 percent of children aged five being fully immunised.

Vaccination coverage rates are the highest ever among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children entering school, and since 2009 there has been an increase in children fully immunised -- particularly at five years of age -- from 76.8 percent in 2008 to 95.2 percent in 2016.

I want to acknowledge the role the Aboriginal Medical Services and State and Territory health systems for supporting the Commonwealth to achieve these figures.

Immunisation is one of the key goals of the Implementation Plan of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023, which guides national action on Closing the Gap on health

Immunisation is critical for the health of children and the wider community. Interventions within the first three years of life have been shown to have the greatest impact on health and life outcomes.

There is a close relationship between health and educational outcomes. Developmental delays, including sight and hearing issues, and early incidence of chronic diseases directly impact a child's ability to grow and learn.

I do not want to see children compromised because of a philosophical stance that some parents may have because they are influenced by Doctor Google or misinformation from anti-vaxxers.

I recently announced $27 million for children and maternal health programs. This funding will go towards services such as antenatal and postnatal care, breastfeeding assistance, health and development checks and also ensuring children are properly immunised.

When I was a teacher I saw children with measles. I suffered from whooping cough and ended up with lung damage, and I do not want to see children compromised because of a philosophical stance that some parents may have because they are influenced by Doctor Google or misinformation from anti-vaxxers.

It's not just about protecting your child, it is about protecting other children who use child health centres or childcare. The more people who are vaccinated the fewer opportunities a disease has to spread.

The success of the National Immunisation Program and policies such as No Jab, No Pay has not happened by accident. It is backed by science and virtually every medical and health expert in Australia.

Increasing immunisation is part of Closing the Gap and is community-driven, tailored, innovative and sensitive to individual and community needs. We want to see parents empowered by information, supported by appropriate services and accessing care in ways that suit them.

Increasing immunisation coverage is the result of community action and I want to see that continue.

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