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The latest weapon in the battle to boost immunisation: a sick baby

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Media Release


D r M ic h a e l W o o ld r id g e

Embargo: 10.30am MW 76/97 28 July, 1997


The Federal Government today unveiled its latest weapon in the battle to lift Australia's low level of immunisation against diseases that can cause death in young children: dramatic advertising featuring a seven-week old baby coughing violently as a result o f whooping cough.

Launching the Community Education Phase o f the Immunise Australia Program at Westmead New Children's Hospital in Sydney, Federal Health and Family Services Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge, said it was a national disgrace that young children were dying from easily preventable diseases such as whooping cough.

Dr Wooldridge also announced that the first Immunisation Awareness Day, which will include information displays and mobile immunisation booths and vans at major shopping centres around Australia, would be held on Saturday 2 August. Other locations will be targeted later this year on 4 October and 6 December.

"In the last 20 years almost 250 young kids died from diseases which are almost totally preventable through immunisation," Dr Wooldridge said.

"Since October last year at least four families had have to go through the quite awful experience of losing a child to whooping cough.

"As a Minister, as a doctor, as a parent o f young kids, I think it is just amazing that just over half o f the children in Australia are fully protected from preventable disease compared to rates o f 90 percent and above in some o f the poorest countries in the world.

"This commercial is unashamedly confronting. It hits hard. It hits emotional hot buttons. It will probably shock a lot o f people, and I hope it encourages every parent to make full immunisation a far higher priority," he said.

Dr Wooldridge said that one in every 140 children who contract whooping cough will develop an inflammation o f the brain with the possibility o f lasting mental and physical damage,

"This year there has been an alarming number o f cases of whooping cough in children too young to be immunised who have caught the disease from older unimmunised children," Dr Wooldridge said.

"This is a national scandal and a situation which does not need to happen in modern-day Australia. Turning immunisation rates around is an enormous task but the Federal Government has clearly shown its commitment to the challenge," he said.

Dr Wooldridge said an estimated 98 per cent o f Australian parents surveyed support immunisation and yet they often claim to lack knowledge about when their children should be immunised and about what full immunisation means.

"This commercial demonstrates just how wrong these views are and graphically shows it is the most vulnerable kids who often bear the cost o f our failure to immunise them," Dr Wooldridge said.

Dr Wooldridge said that since the launch o f Immunise Australia in February a raft o f new incentives



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and programs had been established in cooperation with general practitioners, community groups and experts in the field. These include: .

* Restructuring Maternity Allowance to provide a bonus for parents who ensure that their child is appropriately immunised at the age o f 18 months; Linking the immunisation status o f children to parents' eligibility for Childcare Assistance and the Childcare Cash Rebate; Introducing the GP Incentive Scheme to encourage and reward doctors for assuming responsibility for immunising the children they see in their rooms; Agreement by Commonwealth, State and Territory Education Ministers to introduce tough school entry requirements nationally to ensure that parents submit details o f their child's immunisation history before commencing schooling; Funding was announced in the Budget for Hepatitis B immunisation across Australia for all pre-adolescents, in cooperation with State and Territory Governments; Details will soon be announced regarding the introduction of a new acellular pertussis

(whooping cough) vaccine for use in infants and children and has fewer side effects, following a recommendation by the National Health and Medical Research Council; A Measles Elimination Advisory Group has been established and will be calling on the expertise o f overseas specialists in the field in developing an integrated strategy; A new Immunisation Research Centre has been established in Sydney; Community groups and local organisations are currently developing an Immunisation Charter through which they will jointly commit to support vaccination programs; Rotary International has developed a community education program which will work with health professionals and community health centres to educate parents and encourage higher

levels o f full immunisation.

Dr Wooldridge congratulated Ogilvy & Mather for producing an innovative and compelling commercial, and said similar advertisements later this year would focus on measles and other diseases targeted by Immunise Australia.


Bill Royce, Dr Wooldridge's office (06) 277 7220

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Last modified July 30, 1997. by Stephanie Tow

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