We often forget why our routine childhood immunisation schedule came into being, but be assured it was in response to significant numbers of cases being reported – having a huge burden of disease on not only those individuals affected but also the health system as a whole. Some of those diseases whilst occurring rarely have not disappeared entirely, but do remain vaccine preventable and highlight the need to keep your immunisations up to date.
In recent weeks in New Zealand for example significant numbers of cases of Whooping Cough (pertussis) have been reported; more than 260 cases over a 4 week period from mid October. Often it is adults who lack immunity, not having had a booster since childhood.
Similarly a number of countries in South and Central America are reporting increased numbers of diphtheria, Venezuela in particular intensifying its national vaccination program. Rare but highly contagious and potentially life-threatening, diphtheria was once the most common infectious cause of death in Australia.
All adults are recommended to check their vaccination status for baseline vaccines, particularly prior to travelling to developing countries where vaccination rates may be significantly lower than at home, resulting in greater risk. A triple antigen vaccine, providing immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough is readily available.