App puts vaccination evidence at fingertips
Authoritative and up-to-date information about vaccination is now available at the tap of a touch screen after the AMA and the Australian Academy of Science jointly launched the Science Q&A app.
The app, developed as a companion to the highly successful information booklet The Science of Immunisation, gives parents and other users access to the latest scientific evidence regarding vaccination in clear, straightforward language.
AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton, who launched the app along with Academy President Dr Suzanne Cory and world-renowned immunologist Professor Sir Gustav Nossal, said it would help parents make informed decisions about immunising their children by giving them access to quality scientific evidence.
“It is an important new resource that will help dispel the non-scientific myths and misinformation circulated by anti-vaccination groups in the community,” Dr Hambleton said. “The app features strong scientific evidence, clear explanations, and easy-to-understand language that will reassure people, including conscientious objectors, about the safety and efficacy of immunisation.”
The AMA and the Academy have been at the forefront of efforts to bolster immunisation rates amid evidence of an alarming decline in protection against potentially deadly diseases such as measles and whooping cough in some areas.
Figures released earlier this year showed that vaccination rates among young children in parts of the country, particularly northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, have slipped as low as 81.1 per cent – well below the level considered necessary to ensure a level of ‘herd immunity’.
The decline in vaccination rates has been attributed, in part, to the spread of misleading and irresponsible claims by anti-vaccination campaigners.
But, in a setback for opponents of immunisation, a New South Wales tribunal last month ordered the so-called Australian Vaccination Network to change its name to more accurately reflect its anti-vaccination stance.
The importance of vaccination has been further reinforced by the Commonwealth, which introduced new rules in August requiring that parents ensure their children are fully immunised, or have an approved exemption, in order to be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.
Dr Hambleton said vaccination had worked to make many serious life-threatening diseases rare, but there was a risk of devastating outbreaks if immunisation levels were allowed to slip.
The AMA President said parents concerned about vaccines should feel free to discuss their fears with the family doctor, and the app provided an additional source of useful and credible information.
“It is another useful tool for community GPs, who are the public face of immunisation for Australian families,” he said.
Professor Nossal said it was important for all parents to have their children fully immunised.
“Not only does this safeguard the children from serious and potentially fatal infections, but high immunisation coverage at the community level ensures that viruses and bacteria do not have enough fertile ‘soil’ on which to grow, so that risk of infection is minimised by herd immunity,” he said.
For details on how to access the new app, click on the Science Q&A icon on the Australian Academy of Science website at: www.science.org.au