Victoria has achieved its best ever immunisation coverage, with 94.9 percent of five-year-olds up to date with their vaccinations, the State Government says.
The Government said the increased rates were boosted by its No Jab, No Play law, which bans unvaccinated children from attending child care and kindergarten.
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the result meant Victoria had almost reached its “holy grail” target, to achieve herd immunity for those too young or medically unable to be vaccinated.
“I am heartened I think it is a sign that the message of science and protecting your children is finally starting to beat some of the myth-making unscientific dangerous messages that some put out about vaccination,” she said.
No Jab, No Play came into effect on January 1, last year, after 2015 saw a dramatic increase in cases of whooping cough in the state.
Who’s missing out on vaccinations?
Debate around immunisation focuses on ‘vaccine refusers’ but experts say we cannot ignore the other reasons children miss out on vaccines.
Vaccination rates hovered around 92 per cent for a number of years, but the latest figures from the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register showed coverage had slowly climbed from 93 per cent last year.
“It has increased by over 1 per cent, and we have been sitting on 93, 92 in some areas for a significant period of time,” Ms Hennessey said.
“We’ve put significant resources into getting out the message to vaccinate your child.”
The Government re-introduced free whooping cough vaccines for expectant mothers and parents of newborns, after the program was abolished by the previous Liberal government in 2012.
The measures followed moves by the Federal Government to strip social security payments from parents who do not immunise their children.
But at the beginning of this year, about 7 per cent of Victorian children under the age of six had not being vaccinated, leaving holes in the state’s herd immunity.
In response, the Victorian Government ramped up efforts to improve rates across the state, spending $750,000 on a new advertising campaign to encourage vaccination.
Last month, a Melbourne doctor had his licence to practice suspended for his anti-vaccination stance.
Dr John Piesse’s practice in Mitcham was raided by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and police officers following allegations he had helped families avoid compulsory childhood vaccinations.
Ms Hennessy said any health practitioner spreading myths about vaccinations would be dealt with by authorities.
“I feel very concerned about people who pedal misinformation, people who don’t promote the science, vaccinations are safe, they are probably one of the best public health investments that we’ve had in recent decades because they genuinely save lives,” she said.
“We can’t afford to rest on our laurels, we’ve got to keep persuading the community that vaccinating your child is not only safe for your child, it makes it safer for everyone’s children and the rest of the community.”
Australia’s national immunisation coverage sits at 94 per cent.