Lots of attention is given to childhood vaccination but very little for adolescents and adults.
A recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia outlined the importance of adult vaccinations, both subsidised and not. With less than half of adults appropriately vaccinated according to national recommendations, it highlighted a huge gap in adult vaccination rates.
For individuals in certain age groups and/or with certain medical conditions, the government provides some vaccinations for free. These include influenza, pneumonia and shingles vaccines. Estimates of the impact of influenza virus alone reveals 300,000 consultations with the doctor, 18,000 hospital admissions and 3000 deaths each year. Most of these are potentially avoidable with appropriate vaccination. Influenza is very high risk for both mum and child in pregnancy, but whilst the influenza vaccine is free for pregnant mum’s, only 40% are vaccinated.
Other vaccines such as pertussis (whooping cough) are also important in pregnancy, and of relevance for the unimmunised newborn baby. Parents and close family members are often not as well vaccinated as they could be and are encouraged to seek vaccination to avoid putting the child at risk.
Many adults continue to travel overseas un or under-vaccinated against diseases. Partially immunised adults remain the main source of measles cases in Australia. Most of the recent cases around the country have been imported by Australians returning home from developing countries.
Dr David Rutherford