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GPs and nurses urged to meet the immunisation challenge

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Media release The Hon Dr Michael Wooldridge M in is te r fo r H e a lth a n d F a m ily S e r v ic e s

MW 17/97 28 February 1997


GPs and nurses were today urged to take up the Federal Government's challenge to lift Australia's poor immunisation rates by the end of 1998.

The Federal Minister for Health and Family Services, Dr Michael Wooldridge, called on all health practitioners involved in immunising children to make it their personal mission to ensure that Australian children no longer suffered from debilitating and fatal vaccine-preventable diseases.

Launching the National Health and Medial Research Council's (NHMRC) Australian Immunisation Handbook, 6th Edition in Sydney, Dr Wooldridge said GPs needed to assume responsibility for the immunisation status of children under their care by turning regular visits • by child patients into immunisation opportunities.

“When children go to visit their GP for cuts, sprains or sniffles, we expect that the GP will at the same time ask the parent whether the child's immunisation was up to date. If it is not, they will need to make arrangements for it to be brought up to date,” he said.

“What we are asking doctors to do under the Government's Immunise Australia - A Seven Point Plan, is to assume responsibility for the status of the children they seek. We will use Medicare data and the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register information so that we can give GPs feedback as to how the children they are seeing are appropriately immunised.”

Dr Wooldridge also called on the medical profession to help educate parents about the need for immunisation and provide them with the information they need to feel reassured about the need to have their children vaccinated.

“It is GPs and nurses and other immunisation providers that are the key link to that most important target group o f this plan - parents. It is to their doctor or community, council or health clinic nurse that parents turn to for advice on immunisation,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“The NHMRC's new Handbook is designed to help GPs and nurses in this task. It contains accessible reference guides about the diseases children are to be immunised against, the procedures for vaccination, the recommended schedule for vaccination and any side effects to vaccinations.


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Dr Wooldridge said the Handbook is the guide to assisting practitioners in providing high quality immunisation services. It gives clear guidance about immunisation procedures and the standard immunisation schedule and provides an accessible summary o f the relevant data in vaccine preventable diseases in Australia. It is also the source document on immunisation which will be used to develop education material for parents and providers.

“I hope that GPs, nurses and other medical practitioners make best use o f this marvellous resource,” Dr Wooldridge said.

“I congratulate the NHMRC for its outstanding work in the field of immunisation. It has led the way in lifting immunisation standards and setting the goalposts for immunisation target rates.”

NHMRC Chairman, Professor Richard Smallwood, added his support to the Government's efforts to lift immunisation rates, saying it was vital that health care professionals took every opportunity to immunise children and adults.

“The aim o f the Handbook is to give practitioners clear guidance about immunisation and to provide an easy to read summary of all the relevant data on vaccine preventable infectious diseases in Australia,” he said. :

“For the practitioner, the most important parts of the Handbook are those dealing with immunisation procedures and the current Standard Immunisation Schedule. The handbook covers standard vaccination procedures, consent, management o f adverse reactions, reporting adverse reactions and vaccination for special groups.

“The new revised schedule and Handbook will enable immunisation providers to maintain the highest standards in immunisation services and help parents and others make informed choices about immunisation,” Professor Smallwood said.

In addition to the launch o f the Handbook, the recipients of the Jenner Community Awards for services to immunisation were announced.

Dr Wooldridge congratulated Dr Margaret Burgess, a paediatrician at the New Childrens Hospital, Westmead, who is a member o f the National Childhood Immunisation Committee and a well-known immunisation exponent, for her award for Outstanding Dedication to Immunisation. The Illawarra Immunisation Task Force was presented with the National

Community Award and the Deafness Association of the Northern Territory received a national Professional Award.

The free handbook will be available mid-March by calling Toll-Free 1800 671 811.

Contact: Vicky Anderson, Dr Wooldridge's Office, 06 277 7220 Professor Richard Smallwood, Chairman NHMRC, 03 9496 2160 Professor Terry Nolan, Chair of the NHMRC's Immunisation Working Party, 03 9345 6363 Royce Communications - Kathryn Ager & Kristinie McCann (03) 9820 3733