93% of Hunter kids immunised

THE Hunter has achieved some of the highest rates of childhood immunisation in the country, ranked fourth overall at 93 per cent, with Maitland on top nationally with a rate of 96 per cent.

Those high rates were the result of a long-term commitment by the region’s primary health providers and Hunter New England Health, chief executive officer of Hunter Medicare Local, Mark Foster, said on Thursday.

‘‘We are also pretty pleased with the immunisation rate for children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children of 92 per cent,’’ he said.

‘‘We have been very active in supporting general practices across the region to get organised about immunising their children so instead of just waiting for children to turn up they keep an eye on all their children that should be immunised and if they haven’t been in to get their shot, they call them.

‘‘The other thing we have been doing is working very closely with the public health unit of Hunter New England Health so between the two of us we are either looking after all the children who are accessing general practices and for the ones that aren’t we are following them up and ensuring they are being picked up,’’ Dr Foster added.

But a rate of 93 per cent meant 600 children from the Hunter Medicare Local catchment area were not being reached, he said.

‘‘Some of those are people who do routinely get their vaccinations but had not done so when the statistics were compiled but there is a small proportion of people who don’t believe in it, and some others who have troubles accessing the service.’’

Immunisation rates in the Hunter are among the nation’s highest.

The authority has identified nine areas in NSW as being at risk of outbreaks of potentially serious diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) due to low vaccination areas and they include Sydney’s wealthiest suburbs in Manly and inner Sydney.

Authority chief executive Diane Watson said nationally there were 77,000 children who were not fully immunised at five years old, and rates were very low in some indigenous communities.

Anti lobby blamed for fall in rate

DOCTORS have called for sanctions against those peddling anti-immunisation information, after a new report found more than 76,000 Australian children had fallen behind with their vaccinations.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton lashed out at anti-vaccination groups, who he accused of influencing recent vaccination rates through the spread of misinformation.

Once vaccination rates dropped below 93 per cent for measles, there was a risk of an outbreak of the disease, he said.

Dr Hambleton said modern parents had been spared seeing the impact diseases such as measles had on children, which may be making them apathetic about immunisation. AAP