WITH 43 per cent of parents having concerns about vaccinations, the need to build trust and confidence in the Childhood Immunisation Program is so important in re-establishing good coverage, Associate Professor Margie Danchin says.
"This year the World Health Organisation identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 global threats to public health," she said. "So there is a real recognition - globally - that we need to build and sustain confidence in vaccines, and my personal belief is that that needs to start in pregnancy."
Professor Danchin, a paediatrician at the Royal Children's Hospital - and lead of the Vaccine Acceptance, Uptake and Policy Group at Murdoch Children's Research Institute - said the rapidity with which misinformation could be spread via social media was one of the major contributors to diminishing vaccine confidence, as well as safety scares. She will share her knowledge and experience with more than 550 local doctors, nurses, students and allied health professionals at the "Vaccine Heroes" conference in Newcastle on Saturday.
She said many parents had concerns about the number of vaccines given in the first two years of life, whether vaccine ingredients were toxic, and whether they affected the immune system.
So far this year, there have been 150 cases of measles in Australia. In 2018, there were 103 in total. In 2017, there were 81. In the Philippines, there have been more than 40,000 recent cases of measles, mostly in children, and over 400 deaths.
"That was mostly attributed to a loss of trust and confidence in the childhood vaccination program as a result of a vaccine scare related to a new dengue vaccine in 2016, which was associated with some deaths.
"Parents became frightened and fearful, and they didn't only stop vaccinating their children against dengue, they stopped vaccinating against measles. As a result, that altered their confidence in routine vaccines, and they had a really bad outbreak."
In Australia, 43 per cent of parents had some concerns about vaccination, Professor Danchin said.
"If you look at the national coverage figures, you'd say we were fairing quite well... but if you look at smaller areas - like the inner city areas of both Melbourne and Sydney, they have coverage around the mid-to-high 80s for the two year old time point, which is quite low when you see the national coverage for that time point is around 91 per cent," she said. "The national vaccine figures can actually mask under-vaccination and pockets of low coverage around the country. We need to build trust, and sustained confidence, that vaccines are good and safe and they work."
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We need to build and sustain confidence in vaccinesProfessor Margie Danchin