Ex­perts agree No Jab No Play was key to our ‘ herd im­mu­nity’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - THE BIG SQUEEZE - JANE HANSEN

AUS­TRALIA is now ef­fec­tively safe from deadly dis­eases po­lio, measles and rubella — thanks to The Sun­day Tele­graph’s No Jab vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns.

Aus­tralia has sur­passed the gold stan­dard of a 95 per cent vac­ci­na­tion rate, known as “herd im­mu­nity”, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­tre for Im­mu­ni­sa­tion and Re­search and Sur­veil­lance. Aus­tralian chil­dren at age five are at their high­est level of pro­tec­tion against vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­ease ever.

While the of­fi­cial rate is 94.5 per cent in the NCIRS 2017 Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Cov­er­age Re­port re­leased last week, an au­dit on the ac­cu­racy of the Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Regis­ter found that 14 per cent of chil­dren listed as over­due were ac­tu­ally up to date. Pro­fes­sor Kris­tine Macart­ney, di­rec­tor of NCIRS and se­nior au­thor on the re­port, said that meant Aus­tralia had made it to herd im­mu­nity, a state where in­fec­tious dis­eases are un­able to take hold be­cause so many of the pop­u­la­tion is im­mu­nised.

“We are es­sen­tially at or over 95 per cent when you fac­tor in the un­der-re­port­ing,” she said.

The Sun­day Tele­graph’s No Jab No Play cam­paign, which started in 2013, later be­came the No Jab No Pay cam­paign.

De­spite crit­i­cism of the cam­paigns, they led to both state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments chang­ing child care en­rol­ment prac­tices and cut­ting fam­ily pay­ments to anti-vaxxers.

“The in­creases in cov­er­age doc­u­mented at 12 and 60 months of age are likely to have been con­trib­uted to by a range of mea­sures, in­clud­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ‘No Jab No Pay’ pol­icy and ‘No Jab No Play’ poli­cies im­ple­mented in some states,” the re­port said. Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Dr Tony Bar­tone agreed No Jab No Play/Pay had been the an­ti­dote to com­pla­cency.

PROUD VAC­CI­NA­TION MILE­STONE PAGE 86

TO­DAY we are cel­e­brat­ing our high­est level of vac­ci­na­tion ever seen in this coun­try and we are de­lighted and proud here at The Sun­day Tele­graph.

Five years ago The Sun­day Tele­graph em­barked on the No Jab No Play cam­paign aimed at rais­ing fall­ing im­mu­ni­sa­tion rates. Most par­ents had sim­ply for­got­ten, or got side­tracked, and a small, noisy bunch were con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors. Com­bined, they had driven vac­ci­na­tion rates be­low 80 per cent in some pock­ets, which put in­no­cent chil­dren, and the com­pro­mised, at risk.

So with the whole­hearted sup­port of our sta­ble­mate The Daily Tele­graph we chal­lenged the state gov­ern­ment to amend the Pub­lic Health Act and tighten up en­try into child­care. In 2014 that be­came the No Jab No Play leg­is­la­tion which was also adopted by other states, who saw the clear ben­e­fits.

Then, af­ter an­other whoop­ing cough death in 2015, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment stepped up to the other part of our chal­lenge. Close the con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tor loop­hole and stop tax­payer-funded fam­ily pay­ments to peo­ple who did not want to vac­ci­nate. If they did not want to be part of the greater com­mu­nity, why should they re­ceive com­mu­nity money for believ­ing in scare­mon­ger­ing non­sense per­pe­trated by con­spir­acy the­o­rists? Thanks to the back­ing of for­mer prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott, the No Jab No Pay laws came into ef­fect in 2016.

The rates of im­mu­ni­sa­tion have climbed year on year as a re­sult.

Rates of chil­dren fully vac­ci­nated by the age of five years in NSW have climbed from a stag­nant 90 per cent in 2012, where they hov­ered for a decade, to 94.4 per cent in Septem­ber 2018.

These are the high­est vac­ci­na­tion rates ever, even higher than the days when the mirac­u­lous po­lio vac­cine was first de­vel­oped. Back then, par­ents queued for hours to have their chil­dren spared the iron lung.

From the 1990s, there has been grow­ing scep­ti­cism about vac­ci­na­tion, based on to­tally un­true and ir­re­spon­si­ble claims that they are linked to ris­ing rates of autism. They are not. Vac­cines are safe, ef­fec­tive and the most pow­er­ful pro­tec­tion for our chil­dren against the dis­eases that once wiped out whole gen­er­a­tions.

So here we are five years later and some of our crit­ics, the ones that said the No Jab re­forms would fail, should take note.

Aus­tralia has sur­passed the gold stan­dard of 95 per cent vac­ci­na­tion rate, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est Na­tional Cen­tre for Im­mu­ni­sa­tion and Re­search and Sur­veil­lance.

We know there are lots of hard­work­ing health pro­fes­sion­als on the ground en­sur­ing our kids are pro­tected and we are proud to have spurred gov­ern­ments to keep our chil­dren safe.

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