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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid believes more needs to be done to convince parents that influenza is a potentially life threatening virus and that vaccines are safe.
Writing in the latest issue of the AMA (WA) magazine, Medicus, Dr Khorshid said that while WA had not had a particularly bad flu season this year, the rest of Australia had experienced a record number of cases and more than 120 deaths.
“Whilst young children, the elderly and the sick are at most risk, vaccination holds advantages for most of us and is likely to improve our productivity in winter, not to mention reducing the serious complications of influenza infection,” he said.
“We must not drop the ball on immunisation and we must keep vaccination numbers as high as we possibly can.
“Recent experiences at a Perth school with low vaccination levels underlines the potential for a devastating outbreak of an infectious disease even within a small pocket of the community,” Dr Khorshid said.
He added that conscientious objectors or vaccine refusers only made up a very small percentage of the number of unvaccinated people.
“Most unvaccinated families don’t actually object to vaccination but are more likely to be too busy, not aware of the vital importance of vaccination, or are too lazy to keep their families properly vaccinated,” he said.
Dr Khorshid also strongly supported the “No Jab/No Pay” policy implemented by the Federal Government.
“The policy might seem draconian and heavy handed, but it is likely to improve vaccination rates and make it clear to parents that the community expects everyone to contribute to the eradication of these serious infectious diseases.
“There has been a significant drop in the percentage of influenza vaccinated children in WA over recent years which has been concerning. Close to half of all WA children had the annual flu vaccine in 2008-09, but the rate plummeted to just 7 per cent in 2010-14 and continues to be very low,” he said.
Dr Khorshid reiterate that General Practice was the best place to have the conversation with parents about the importance of vaccination.
“It is up to General Practice to prove to government that it provides the best setting for rolling out safe and effective immunisation programs.
“We know that pharmacies are queuing up to take on that role, despite the fragmentation of care that would result.
It is also vital for employers – including hospitals and medical practices – to consider ensuring that all staff are vaccinated against influenza,” Dr Khorshid said.
(For Dr Khorshid’s article in full, along with others on the importance of vaccination, click here)