Babies’ lives put at risk by vaccination apathy

NEARLY half of Sunshine Coast students don't bother getting free school-based vaccinations for deadly illnesses like whooping cough, cervical cancer and tetanus.

Figures obtained from the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service showed only between 33% and 58% of Year 8 students in the region were receiving their vaccines in the school immunisation program.

Public Health physician, Dr Rod Davison said the region had some of the lowest rates of uptake in the country.

Background: Kids may be rejected from Qld childcare if unvaccinated

The death of a one-month-old baby in Perth from whooping cough this week was another reminder of the need for everyone to be fully vaccinated, he said.

"This is not only to protect themselves, but to protect the vulnerable such as infants who are too young to be vaccinated," Dr Davison said.

Should school-based vaccinations be mandatory?

This poll ended on 21 March 2016.

Current Results

Yes, unless medical reasons prevent them.

48%

Yes, unless medical or religious reasons prevent them.

2%

No, it should be a choice.

39%

Vaccinations shouldn't be handled through schools.

10%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Three different vaccines were provided in the School Immunisation Program for Year 8 students, funded by Queensland Health.

These are human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine (Gardasil), the combined diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis vaccine (Boostric) and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine (Varilrix or Varivax).

Background: Childcare centres support legislation on unvaccinated kids

For pertussis (whooping cough), only 57% of Year 8 children in the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Noosa council regions had received the one recommended dose of the boostric vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

This potentially left more than 2000 of these students without protection.

Between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2013, there were 16,442 cases of whooping cough notified to Queensland Health in children and adolescents.

"During this period there were six deaths from whooping cough in Queensland," Dr Davison said.

"The Sunshine Coast Public Health Unit continues to receive notifications of pertussis each week in 2015."

Vaccination of the Year 8 age group helps to stop transmission to younger siblings, for whom the infections are often more serious.

Dr Davison said diphtheria also caused the death of an unvaccinated adult in Queensland in 2011.

"Occasional notifications of diphtheria are still received in the Sunshine Coast area," he said.

Dr Davison said vaccination for HPV provided important protection for strains of HPV which caused 7% of cervical cancer, as well as some other genital and anal cancers in women.

The vaccine also provided protection from 90% of HPV-related cancers in men.

But in 2013, only 58% of boys and girls in the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Noosa council areas received the full course of three vaccinations for HPV.

The School Immunisation Program vaccine schedule:

YEAR 8:

Human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil - three doses.

Provides protection for strains of HPV causing 70% of cervical cancer, as well as some other genital and anal cancers in women.

This vaccination also provides protection from 90% of HPV-related cancers in men.

In 2007, Australia was the first country to implement a national, government-funded HPV vaccination program.

In 2013, only 58% of Year 8 boys and girls in the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Noosa received the full course of the vaccine.

The vaccine is expensive, but free for students in Year 8. Young people need to be vaccinated before being exposed to the various strains of the virus.

Compared to the pre-vaccine period, there has been a 46 % reduction in high grade abnormalities of the cervix in those tested.

There were also substantial decreases in hospitalisation rates for genital warts. Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), the Boostrix vaccine - one dose.

In 2013, 57% of Year 10 boys and girls in the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Noosa council areas received the one recommended dose of the vaccine.

Chickenpox - one dose.

Year 8 students aged 14 years or older at the time of the first varicella vaccination require two doses. The second dose is free and should be given at least one month after the first dose.

Vaccination for varicella provides protection against chickenpox, which causes a quite debilitating illness with a pustular rash and fevers, usually requiring a prolonged school absence.

In 2013, 1 in 3 (33%) of the approximately 5,000 Year 8 students in the Sunshine Coast, Gympie and Noosa council areas accepted vaccination for varicella through the school immunisation program, although a large number of children may have already had chickenpox or had been vaccinated already during infancy.



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