immunisation programs in Australia – conclusion

Immunisation initiatives in Australia have a history traceable to the small pox vaccine in 1804, but have failed to achieve significant public health benefits due to challenges that the vaccination programs in the country have encountered. This paper evaluates these barriers and contends that, indeed, Immunisation initiatives in Australia have failed to meet the expected public health benefits over last 10 years.

One of the challenges for such programs has been the funding of programs that strictly targets groups such as the indigenous people habiting the remote locations. Although these have improved the coverage of vaccines in such remote areas, they have led to under identification of indigenous population in non-remote regions, resulting to reduced vaccination coverage in such areas. A second challenge, related to the indigenous population has been their living in isolated geographical locations. This presents two challenges; firstly, the accessibility of such populations for vaccinations becomes difficult as evident in delayed vaccination of infants inhabiting these regions. Secondly, such geographical isolation presents challenged for transportation of vaccines. Since vaccines require to be maintained and transported without bleaching the cold chain, the geographical isolation may enhance chances of such bleach implying that the vaccines that reach the indigenous population are not potent.

Another challenge facing vaccination programs in Australia is resistance to the programs due to negative publicity and cultural beliefs. Negative publicity is fostered by adverse media spotlight that make parents wary of subjecting their children to childhood vaccination programs. Cultural believes make vaccination programs challenging where they perceive vaccination as a new, non-traditional aspect. Apart from the beliefs, the uncertainty of immunisation status of a large proportion of the immigrant and refugee population in Australia presents a risk of re-introduction of the diseases targeted by immunisation programs in the country. Additionally, failure of monitoring systems for follow-up immunisation poses a risk of lower coverage where inhabitants do not receive the required vaccine follow-ups for full immunity.

Such challenges bear various implications for the country. First, is the need for sensitization about the benefits of immunisation to counter negative publicity. Second, is the need to ensure effective monitoring systems such as ensuring the completeness of the childhood immunisation register by assessing those who receive the required follow-up vaccinations. Third, there exists a need for culturally informed immunisation approaches that enhance identification of non-immunised indigenous population in non-remote areas. Fifth, the government needs to invest in vaccine transportation and storage facilities that ensure the vaccines presented to the populations in remote areas have the right potency to achieve the required vaccination effect. With such interventions, the government would enable increased coverage of immunisation programs, thus avoid cases where unimmunised individuals act as reservoirs, who reintroduce the diseases into the immunised population

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University of Southern Queensland –USQ 2012, Module 1- foundations of immunisation, USQ, Queensland.

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