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Media Release Dr Michael Wooldridge Minister for Health and Aged Care

MW 42/00 19th May 2000

NEW IMMUNISATION HANDBOOK WILL HELP PROTECT MORE AUSTRALIANS FROM DISEASE: WOOLDRIDGE The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Dr Michael Wooldridge, today launched the seventh edition of the Australian Immunisation Handbook, which will help improve Australia's fight against vaccine-preventable disease.

"The Handbook is about saving lives," Dr Wooldridge said, "It gives doctors clear guidance about immunisation and includes the latest data about vaccine-preventable disease."

"The latest figures show that in March this year we had the lowest number of vaccine-preventable diseases notified for any month in the last seven years. I'm absolutely delighted by the result - but it doesn't mean we now rest on our laurels."

Centrepiece of the Handbook is the new immunisation schedule, which adds universal hepatitis B vaccinations for infants.

"Under the new schedule, the first hepatitis B vaccination will be given soon after birth, with three further doses, in combination with other childhood vaccines, given within the next twelve months without the need for additional jabs," Dr Wooldridge said.

"This recommendation is a big step forward in stopping the spread of hepatitis B by reducing the number of carriers in the community and giving children long-lasting protection against this serious disease from birth."

The new schedule will also include a revised Hib requirement, which reduces the number of injections from four to three and can be given in combination with Hepatitis B vaccine or by itself.

Children born on or after May 1 2000 are being vaccinated using the new schedule. Children born before that date will continue on the previous schedule, where it should be noted hepatitis B vaccinations take place between 10 and 13 years of age.

"These changes further enhance the Federal Government's commitment to immunisation, where more than 88% of all Australian one-year-olds and nearly 77% of two-year olds are now fully protected from preventable diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough and measles," Dr Wooldridge said.

People who wish to learn more about the new immunisation schedule should talk to their GP or health provider, or ring the Immunisation Infoline on 1800 671 811.

Media Contact: Serena Williams, Office of Dr Michael Wooldridge, 0411 261 627

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©Commonwealth of Australia, 2000

Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care web site 22 May 2000 Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care URL: http://www.health.gov.au/mediarel/yr2000/mw/mw20042.htm