ACT News


Canberra's immunisation rates strong, but parents' objections reach a high

The ACT continues to lead the country in immunisation rates for one and five year olds, but data reveals the number of ACT parents objecting to their children being immunised has hit its highest level in more than two years. 

The latest Australian Childhood Immunisation Register quarterly report reveals the territory's immunisation rates for one, two and five years olds is above the national average and the ACT has recorded an increase in vaccinations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The ACT had the country's highest immunisation rates for one and five year olds and the second-highest rate for two year olds. 

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the report also showed rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were above the national average and had increased from 89.3 per cent in the March quarter to 96.2 per cent in the June quarter. 

She welcomed the report, saying the results were great news for the territory and highlighted the role of continued education about the benefits of immunising children.

"Immunisation has been demonstrated repeatedly to be one of the most effective medical interventions we have to prevent disease," she said. "Immunisation not only protects individuals but also protects others in the community." 


Data shows about 93 per cent of one, two and five year olds in the territory were fully immunised between September last year and June. 

ACT acting chief health officer Andrew Pengilley said it was pleasing the territory had some of the highest immunisation rates in the country. 

"It's obviously good because vaccination is one of the main ways we can protect people from vaccine-preventable diseases," he said.

Recent ACIR data has also revealed a rising trend in the number of children recorded as having a conscientious objection to immunisation. Figures showed it had risen to 478 out of 38,504, or 1.24 per cent, as of June, up from 357 out of 35,968 children, or 0.99 per cent, in March 2012. 

However, the territory had the second-lowest level of conscientious objectors of the states and territories after the Northern Territory. 

The June 2014 figure for ACT children recorded as objecting was below the national average of 1.78 per cent, or 39,587 out of 2.2 million children. 

Queensland had the highest rate of objectors followed by South Australia. 

A parent can apply for a "conscientious" objection if they have a personal, philosophical, religious or medical belief that immunisation should not occur. 

For a formal objection to be accepted, parents or guardians need to sign and lodge a form, which also needs to be signed by a recognised immunisation provider. An immunisation provider must declare the risks and benefits associated with immunisation have been explained to the parent or guardian as have the potential dangers of a child not being immunised.

Dr Pengilley said although the number of conscientious objectors in the ACT was small, it was still concerning to see a rise.  

"The fact is vaccine-preventable infectious diseases are serious and they haven't gone away so anybody who is unvaccinated is at risk and also at risk potentially of being a person who is infectious and can affect others," he said. 

"Whilst the vaccination rates seem very reassuring at 90 plus per cent, it's not an opportunity for complacency because if they were to drop another 10 per cent, actually we would start to see very large outbreaks of things like measles.

"I think people really need to talk to their GPs and look for authoritative information because unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation out there about vaccination." 

The ACT has recorded four measles cases this year. 


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