Vaccinations and why they matter

Illustration of woman with lolly and band aid over vaccination area on arm
At the beginning of last century, infectious diseases like measles, polio and diphtheria were common and deadly. Thanks to vaccines, the devastating epidemics caused by these diseases are now rare in the developed world.

Successful immunisation programs have been rolled out in many countries, and this has led to a dramatic drop in the number of deaths from these now preventable illnesses.

Bupa is proud to support World Immunisation Week, which aims to promote the use of vaccines worldwide to protect all people against preventable diseases. In 2017, World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April) is promoting a campaign called #vaccineswork. The main goals of the campaign are to:

  • Highlight the importance of immunisation as a top global health investment priority.
  • Promote understanding of the action steps required to achieve the Global Vaccine Action Plan
  • Showcase immunisation’s role in sustainable development and global health security.

Why immunise?

The goal of immunisation is to make people immune from certain infections. Immunisation saves millions of lives and is one of the world’s most successful, safe and effective health interventions. Immunisation doesn’t just protect one person from illness, it also significantly reduces disease transmission in the community. When more people are protected with vaccination, a disease has less opportunity to spread from person to person.

Immunisation in Australia

In Australia, the first vaccine for diphtheria became available in the 1930s and this led to a huge fall in infection rates and deaths. Similarly, deaths from whooping cough consistently fell after a vaccine was introduced from the 1940s. In the 20 years that followed, deadly polio and measles epidemics were ended by vaccines. Rubella and mumps vaccines also led to significant reductions in infection rates and deaths.

Newer vaccines have been developed, and these are saving even more lives. Rotavirus vaccine has reduced hospital admissions and deaths in babies from diarrhoea, and the hepatitis B vaccine has protected thousands of people against liver cancer. Australian researchers developed the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and other cancers caused by this virus. Since the HPV vaccine became available in 2007, cervical cancer rates have fallen by over 50%.

Vaccinations for children

The Australian Government runs the National Immunisation Program Schedule, which funds vaccinations to protect millions of Australians each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Currently, the program includes vaccines against 16 diseases. Here’s a timeline of the vaccines funded by the National Immunisation Program in children.

Vaccination in adults

Adults are also offered various vaccines under the National Immunisation Program. These vaccines protect against diseases including influenza, shingles and pneumococcal bacteria. For more information on which age groups are offered each of these vaccines, visit the program website.

The flu vaccine

With flu season just around the corner, it’s important to talk about flu vaccination. A yearly flu shot is recommended for anyone over the age of 6 months who wants to reduce their chance of becoming ill from the flu. Flu vaccination is funded by the National Immunisation Program in 2017 for the following groups:

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6 months to under 5 years
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over
    • All people aged 65 and over
    • All people over the age of 6 months who have certain medical conditions which increase the risk of influenza disease complications (including severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes)
    • Pregnant women

There are ways that a business can help those in their organisation who are not covered by the National Immunisaiton Program funding. We offer a full Winter Well program, we are offering our client partners the opportunity to purchase flu vaccination vouchers.

The future of vaccination

Australia needs to continue its efforts to improve vaccination coverage across the country. Recent estimates suggest that each year there are about 4.1 million under-vaccinated Australians each year – that is, people who are eligible for free vaccinations under the National Immunisation Program but do not receive them.

Despite improvements in individual countries and a strong, global rate of new vaccine introduction, there are still 19.4 million unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children in the world. In order for everyone, everywhere to survive and thrive, countries must make more concerted efforts to reach the goals set in 2012 by the Global Vaccine Action Plan to save lives through immunisation.

Sources

Australian Government. Department of Health. Immunise Australia Program. Influenza (flu) [Online, last updated Mar 2017, accessed Mar 2017] Available from: www.immunise.health.gov.au

Australian Government. Department of Health. Immunise Australia Program. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice for immunisation providers regarding the administration of seasonal influenza vaccines in 2017 [Online, last updated Mar 2017, accessed Mar 2017] Available from: www.immunise.health.gov.au

Menzies R Leask J Royle J et al. Vaccine myopia: adult vaccination also needs attention. Med J Aust. 2017. 206; 6: 238-239.

Smith M Canfell K. Impact of the Australian National Cervical Screening Program in women of different ages. Med J Aust. 2016. 205; 8: 359-364.

The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. Immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases [Online] 2012 [Accessed Mar 2017] Available from: www.rcpa.edu.au

Ward K Quinn H Menzies R et al. A history of adolescent school-based vaccination in Australia. Communicable diseases intelligence quarterly report. 2013; 37(2):E168-E174. Canberra: Australian Government.

This information has been reviewed for Bupa by health professionals and to the best of their knowledge is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice. Bupa HI Pty Ltd (and its related entities) makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the recommendations or assessments and is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information, except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health.