Barriers to Immunisation Initiatives in Australia – part 2

Beliefs that foster resistance to immunisation

A more predominant challenge to immunisation programs arises with beliefs that result into resistance towards immunisation. This is more so because the immunisation of children significantly depends on the parents’ willingness to subject their children to vaccination. With reports and rumours of adverse events of some vaccines, perpetuated mainly by media spotlight, many parents are increasingly objecting to taking their children for vaccination, out of the safety concerns raised (Gust, Brown, Sheedy, Hibbs, Weaver & Nowak 2005). Since the media will focus mainly on the vaccination events that result into adverse reactions, neglecting those that have been successful in combating disease, the public may perceive most vaccinations to be dangerous thus avoiding them altogether. Such public fear reverses the gains made in public health in the last 10 years, following acceptance of immunisation by population (ASQ 2012).

Alleviating such fears requires aggressive campaigns to foster informed decisions by the parents. For instance, educating the public on the health gains made following implementation of various vaccines, and the policies in place to ensure only safe vaccines are used, could help foster the public’s acceptance to immunisation programs (Gust et al. 2005). Such education programs can be availed by clinicians and other healthcare stakeholders, by targeting specific groups in society (ASQ 2012). Without such sensitization, the immunisation programs in Australia will continue failing to meet their expected public health benefits.

A second source of cultural resistance to vaccination arises from believes entrenched by religious tenets. For instance, such resistance may arise where religious beliefs foster the perception of immunisation as a new technology, hence an adoption of a new, undesirable culture (Brooke & Omeri 1999). Brooke and Omeri, evaluating such a phenomenon among Lebanese Muslim Immigrants in Australia, however find out that, when conceptualized as a parental responsibility to enhance the health of their children, immunisation can be perceived as a traditional responsibility rather than a new phenomenon. Accordingly, the challenge that exist is imbuing vaccination programs with such meanings to foster its acceptance among religious groups that resist new technology.

Un-immunised immigrants and refugees

Another factor complicating immunisation effectiveness in Australia is the existence of a large immigrant population whose vaccination status remains unknown. On the modern Australia society, immigrants make huge part of the population. Among those populations, there are many immigrant young people and refugee, who might not have received critical vaccinations in their home countries (Brooke & Omeri, 1999). In the article of Milne, Raman, Thomas and Shah (2006), it was documented that a significant proportion of immigrant and refugee young people in Australia, had low immunisation rates. Such a finding imply that the immigrant and refugee population has affected Australia’s public health adversely in the last decade.

A factor aggravating the effect of immigrant and refugee population on the impact of immunisation programs is the lack of information on their immunisation status (Milne et al. 2006). This is compounded by the failure to conduct effective screening on such populations. With such uncertainty regarding their immunisation status, refugees and immigrants continue to be a potential reservoir for introducing the targeted diseases in the community. Such lack of clarity results most often from the loss of documentation during travel and disruption of medical service in their countries of origin (Brooke & Omeri, 1999). Additionally, different countries have different health service systems; hence, the risk diseases against which they could be immunised may differ from those where immunisation is required in Australia. When inadequate screenings are conducted, the unscreened immigrants and refugees may thus pose a potential source of the diseases targeted by vaccination programs, thus defeating the effect of immunisation efforts on the public health of the population. To alleviate such a challenge, Milne et al (2006) noted that implementing immunization programs in schools could prove useful where such schools are used as education centres to foster knowledge of the need to be vaccinated among the immigrant population attending these schools.

Go to part three here.

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