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Call for more children on the Peninsula to be vaccinated after a surge in preventable childhood diseases

Paediatrician Dr Kathy McMahon urges parents to vaccinate their children against common infectious childhood diseases.

Give the gift of care

“We are seeing a surge in measles and pertussis which can easily be prevented if children are vaccinated,” says Dr McMahon.

“We have had a large number of children presenting to the Emergency department with measles or pertussis with the more unwell being admitted to hospital.

“Some children are sent home, but if they are developing complications of these infections such as pneumonia, encephalitis or they become apnoeic and cyanotic ( stop breathing and become blue) they are admitted.

Unfortunately once they are infected with these infections there is no treatment other than supportive measures.

“Vaccination is one of the most effective interventions to prevent disease worldwide. Modern vaccines provide high levels of protection against an increasing number of diseases which, in some cases, can be fatal.”

The last week of April each year is marked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners as World Immunization Week. It aims to raise public awareness of how immunisation saves lives, encouraging people everywhere to vaccinate themselves and their children against deadly diseases.

The WHO, estimates that worldwide, immunisation programs prevent approximately 2.5 million deaths each year. The current immunisation rate in Victoria for children under 5 years of age is around 92 per cent; however immunisation coverage of 95 per cent is necessary to halt the spread of particularly virulent diseases such as measles.

Data from the Australian Health Department, shows that measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type B (hib) vaccines protect more than 95% of children who have completed the course. One dose of meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months protects over 90% of children. Three doses of whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine protect about 85% of children who have been immunised, and will reduce the severity of the disease in the other 15% if they do catch whooping cough.

“Immunisation not only protects those people who have been vaccinated, it also protects those in our community who may be unable to receive vaccines themselves, by reducing the prevalence and spread of disease,” says Dr McMahon.

According to the Australian Health Department, immunisation is the safest and most effective way of providing protection against the disease.

After immunisation, your child is far less likely to catch the disease if there are cases in the community and if it is caught, they are likely to only have mild symptoms. The benefit of protection against the disease far outweighs the risks of immunisation.

If enough people in the community are immunised, the infection can no longer be spread from person to person. This is how smallpox was eliminated from the world and polio has disappeared from many countries.

Earlier this year the Victorian Government passed new immunisation legislation named ‘No Jab, No Play’, which came into effect on 1 January 2016. The legislation aims to reduce the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases through increased immunisation rates in the community. It requires all children enrolling in early childhood education and care services to be up to date with their vaccinations or to have an approved exemption. This includes long day care, kindergarten, occasional care and family day care.