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A lifetime of jabs to be on the record

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The birth-to-death vaccination details of every Australian will eventually be held in a single national register under new laws passed by Federal Parliament.

In a strong show of bipartisan support for the importance of vaccination, the Labor Party on 12 October backed Coalition legislation calling for the establishment of an Australian Immunisation Register to document all the vaccinations received by Australians under the National Immunisation Program.

Under the new laws, the current Australian Childhood Immunisation Register will, from 1 January next year, be renamed the Australian Immunisation Register and expanded to collect vaccination records for all Australians 20 years or younger.

From next September, the Register will be further enlarged to encompass all age groups including, for the first time, 70-year-olds receiving the Zostavax shingles vaccine provided under the National Immunisation Program.

These changes will be complemented by the transformation of the National Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Program Register into the Australian Schools Vaccination Register, which from 2017 will document all vaccinations given to schoolchildren under the National Immunisation Program.

The legislation will also enable the Federal Government to implement its No Jab, No Pay policy by allowing for the sharing of vital Centrelink data.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer said the changes would remedy serious shortcomings in the nation’s immunisation record which have left some dangerously exposed to serious infections.

“The changes made in this Bill will help to increase national immunisation rates,” Ms O’Dwyer told Parliament. “There are a number of vaccines administered in schools that are not adequately recorded and, as a result, immunisation rates for adolescents in Australia are not well known.”

The Minister said this included information about vaccination for potentially extremely serious diseases such as chicken pox, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Ms O’Dwyer said the registers, which will eventually be consolidated into a single, life-long vaccination record, would help identify areas where vaccination rates were low, allowing targeted action.

“The…registers will give vaccine providers the data they need on areas where immunisation rates are low, and it will allow them to send out the necessary reminder letters,” she said.

Shadow Health Minister Catherine King said the legislation would not only help ensure children were being fully immunised, but also adults.

“It is about ensuring adults have information they need to ensure the protection they receive as children continues long after their schooling ceases,” Ms King said. “Diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and, of course, whooping cough, are not confined to children. Adults who travel or come into contact with others who do not keep their immunisations up-to-date are just as much at risk as those who have refused to be vaccinated.”

“Having a register rof people and knowing their vaccination status is an important way to ensure that people can remain vaccinated.”

Adrian Rollins