A school education and public awareness campaign has been launched on the Gold Coast in a bid to boost immunisation rates for human papillomavirus.
Gold Coast Medicare Local, Queensland Health, City of Gold Coast and Education Queensland are involved in the joint campaign.
A report released by the National Health Performance Authority, Healthy Communities – Immunisation rates for children 2012-13, which compares immunisation rates across Australia, has found that in 2012 the immunisation rate for Gold Coast girls to protect against HPV was one of the lowest in Australia.
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The Gold Coast HPV immunisation rate for girls turning 15 in 2012 was 60 per cent compared with the national average at 70 per cent.
Gold Coast Medicare Local Board Chair Dr David Rowlands said in the last twelve months, strategies had been put in place to improve vaccination rates for HPV and urged parents to ensure their children were immunised.
“We have begun piloting an awareness program at two Gold Coast schools and as a result consent rates have increased by up to 15 per cent. We have also recently undertaken a public awareness campaign for all parents, to remind them about the importance of returning consent forms for their children,” Dr Rowlands said.
The HPV vaccination program now also includes boys, and parents are reminded that it is available for all Year 8 children and also for just this year, Year 10 boys needing a catch up. This will protect them throughout their lives.
“The HPV Gardasil vaccine protects against genital, mouth and throat cancers and genital warts in both boys and girls and parents should ensure their children receive all three doses for maximum effectiveness,” Dr Rowlands said.
Gold Coast General Practitioner, Dr Norman Hohl, said in Australia, the vaccine blocked the virus that causes 80 per cent of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of genital warts.
“Since this program started, we have already seen a reduction in HPV diseases which is why it is so important that every teen is immunised. We estimate that as high as 80 per cent of Australian adults have been infected with HPV and are often completely unaware,” Dr Hohl said.
The report also showed that immunisation rates for Gold Coast children remains stable, with 90.7 per cent of one year olds, 91.7 of two-year olds and 89.2 per cent of five-year olds, fully immunised. Rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 87.7 per cent of one year olds, 94.5 per cent of two year olds and 94.4 per cent of five year olds.
“Considerable work is being done through the General Practice Immunisation Scheme to boost vaccination rates and we will continue to work with our partners including general practice, community and Aboriginal health organisations, to improve immunisation rates for all Gold Coast children,” Dr Rowlands said.
At the start of this year, Gold Coast Medicare Local and Gold Coast Health distributed letters to the parents of young children, reminding them of the importance of health checks and immunisation prior to starting school in 2015.
“We want to ensure that we maintain the national immunisation rate of 90%, a rate that keeps most communicable diseases at bay,” Dr Rowlands said.
The report also includes the number of conscientious objectors, who formally register their objection to their child being immunised. Nationally, the top five regions with the highest number of conscientious objectors were North Coast NSW, Greater Metro South Brisbane, Metro North Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.
“Obviously we need to continue to work with general practitioners and our partners, to promote the benefits of immunisation to the community, which is crucial to protect children against developing diphtheria, hepatitis, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and HPV,” Dr Rowlands said.
Gold Coast residents are also reminded to have their flu vaccination, with an early start to this year’s annual flu season which has already seen Queensland residents hospitalised.
“We urge residents to plan for their annual flu shot and visit a GP. The flu doesn’t discriminate in age, so we would encourage all residents to get protected,” Dr Rowlands said.
Parents should also talk to their GP about what vaccinations the family may require – from babies through to grandparents, who may need for example, whooping cough immunisations, if coming in contact with young grandchildren.
The Healthy Communities report is available at the following website.