Parents targeted to keep kids vaccinated

Parents are being urged to keep their children vaccinated. Photo / Thinkstock
Parents are being urged to keep their children vaccinated. Photo / Thinkstock

Targeting parents whose kids' vaccinations are not up to date will save lives, Australian federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says.

She has launched a new booklet for parents, GPs and other health providers that includes the latest research on vaccination and dispels the myths.

Professor Robert Booy, head of the clinical research team at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, says rare bad reactions to jabs and misinformation about a possible autism link have led some parents to lose sight of the importance of vaccination.

"It's second only to clean water, to sanitation, in saving lives over the last century," he said.

Ms Plibersek says immunisation rates of about 90 per cent have virtually eradicated some childhood diseases in Australia, but some pockets of the community are lagging behind.

"The rate of people who deliberately refuse to vaccinate their children, and are determined not to, is pretty stable at around two or three per cent," she told reporters in Sydney.

"The group that we are most concerned to encourage to have their children immunised are the group in the middle, who are not determinedly against vaccination, but for one reason or another haven't got around to vaccinating their children."

She hopes the Immunisation Myths and Realities booklet will reassure parents.

Ms Plibersek also wants states and territories to better enforce laws that allow them to check children's immunisation levels when they enrol for school.

But she doesn't support schools turning away unvaccinated children.

"Five- or six-year-old children are not in control of their parents' decisions and certainly I don't think they should be excluded from school because of a decision that their parents have made, unless there is an outbreak of something," she said.

But Sydney mother of four Katey Grimshaw knows all too well how one family's choice can come close to devastating another.

When her son Xavier was a week away from his first birthday - too young for the measles jab - he caught the disease from an older, unvaccinated child.

"We nearly lost him. He had over 40 degree temperatures for five days. For a good 10 days he was so sick that he could barely move," Ms Grimshaw told AAP.

She has no issue with parents whose children who cannot be vaccinated because of an impaired immune system or other condition.

However, she supports a NSW push for daycare centres to be allowed to ban children whose parents simply choose not to vaccinate.

"The people who say, 'I'm not immunising my children because it's dangerous', I'd like to see their scientific evidence. They can show me whatever Google search they've done," she said.

"It's not just protecting our own kids. It's protecting everyone's kids."

- AAP

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