Health

WA lags in immunisation stakes

CELICA OLSSON

So far this year WA has recorded 1785 instances of the respiratory disease whooping cough, already eclipsing the number of cases that sparked alarm in 2010.

This figure is expected to grow over the next month as spring marks a seasonal spike in the incidence of whooping cough.

Health Minister Kim Hames this year introduced a government program offering free whooping cough vaccinations to new parents.

Dr Hames said that babies under six months of age could not be vaccinated and that 50 per cent of babies diagnosed with whooping cough had caught it from a parent or caregiver.

Despite measures to raise immunisation awareness, WA’s vaccination rates were still low compared to the rest of the country.

Currently the WA Government’s aim to have 90 per cent of children fully immunised at 12 months has not been met.

Only 87.6% of children aged 12 to 15 months in WA are fully immunised – the lowest rate in Australia.

CEO of Jabalot Immunisation Services Pauline Clark says education and accessibility are the two keys to improving immunisation rates.

“We need to do something and we need to promote through governments, communities, parents, schools, any venue really, the necessity of immunisation by recognising the rise in incidence of diseases,” she says.

Nurse and mother of two, Jasmin Shingles, had her free whooping cough vaccination when she had her youngest daughter Caitlin, in May.

“I believe the reason we don’t have all of these horrible diseases these days is because of immunisation,” she says.

Jabalot and pharmacies are working to develop more immunisation clinics in WA for 2012 to make vaccination more convenient and prevalent.

“People can walk into these clinics without seeing a doctor, without a script … to be immunised by the same nurses you would get in a practice,” Ms Clark said.

“Every person we immunise potentially saves someone’s life.”

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