Although the ACT has the best vaccination rates in Australia, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said community skepticism over its use was 'problematic'. Photo: Supplied
The ACT has the best vaccination rates in Australia, but ACT Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher said it was ''problematic'' that some people still questioned the benefits and safety of childhood vaccinations and failed to recognise the concept of ''herd protection''.
A national survey of 1300 people showed that 53 per cent of parents had concerns about vaccinating their children: 45 per cent had concerns but chose to vaccinate anyway, while 8 per cent withheld or delayed vaccination.
The poll found one in four parents were worried about a specific aspect of vaccination. Among the most common concerns were the bigger range of vaccines, ''inadequate safety testing'' and fears a child's immune system could be overloaded by vaccinations.
Ms Gallagher said there were pockets of the community that did not understand how individual vaccinations provided the entire community with ''herd protection'' from ''potentially deadly infections''.
A number of people had been ''lured in by false claims, misinformation and non-evidence based rubbish peddled by the anti-vaccination campaigners'', she said.
The NSW opposition wants legislation to allow childcare centres and schools to refuse entry to non-vaccinated children. Ms Gallagher said she would be reluctant to introduce similar legislation in the ACT as it would ''punish individual children based on decisions which parents have made''.
She acknowledged that more needed to be done to improve vaccination rates throughout Australia and in the parts of the ACT where rates were below average. The National Health Performance Authority says the ACT leads the country for immunisation, with 94 per cent of children under one being vaccinated, compared with a national average of 92 per cent.
By age two, 94 per cent of ACT children were vaccinated compared with a national average of 93 per cent and by age three, 92 per cent were vaccinated compared with a national average of 90 per cent.
However, a healthy communities' report released by the authority last month showed inner south Canberra had the ACT's lowest immunisation rate in all three age groups.
Only 86 per cent of one-year-olds were fully vaccinated, 6 per cent less than the national average, and just 1 per cent above the level considered ''at risk''.
Ms Gallagher said some pockets of families, ''including educated, well-resourced parents'' who chose not to vaccinate their children, put the entire community at risk and more needed to be done to ''impress upon them the community responsibility message''.
''I wonder whether it is a case where we have not lived through a time where there were epidemics of really terrible illnesses which tore through communities, like polio or diphtheria, and that's removed us a little from the entire argument as to why we should vaccinate our kids,'' she said.
''The thing is, these sorts of diseases can re-emerge if we don't vaccinate.''
Ms Gallagher said the ACT would monitor any changes to legislation in NSW while focusing on its own vaccination education campaigns, and she criticised the anti-vaccination lobby for its message.