In the 2015/16 Federal Budget, the Federal Government allocated $26 million to boost vaccination rates in Australia, including a new Australian Schools Vaccination Register designed to record all adolescent vaccinations provided through school programs for 2017.
On Friday, November 4, 2016, the Department of Health announced via a media release that it was scrapping its plans for the proposed registry, based on advice that it is not required due to:
- A recent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendation that pertussis vaccination for pregnant women be provided as part of the NIP. The PBAC has asked the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to provide advice on the clinical place and effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine schedule, including the pertussis booster currently given in the first year of high school.
- Acknowledgement that the adolescent varicella school-based catch up program will cease by 2018, to align with the last cohort not to receive varicella as part of the early childhood schedule entering high school.
Copping criticism for its decision, a Department of Health spokesperson explained they are seeking alternative solutions to the school vaccines registry.
“Noting that the adolescent varicella school-based catch up program is coming to an end, if the adolescent pertussis booster is removed from the NIP schedule, it is possible that the Schools Register will gather data on HPV vaccinations only, which is currently the case.
“The Department of Health is now looking at alternatives to the Australian Schools Vaccination Register that may include options involving the whole of life Australian Immunisation Register,” said the spokesperson.
“In the meantime, the Department of Health is working with the Victorian Cytology Service about continuing the current HPV Register in 2017.
“The Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, has advised that these administrative arrangements would have no impact on the health of adolescents because the full range of vaccination services are being delivered to the community and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Interestingly, the announcement came just two days after Federal Health Minister, The Hon. Sussan Ley MP issued a media release stating the government had extended its National Vaccination Program, which will now provide the shingles vaccine free of charge to 70 year old Australians. The shingles vaccine is the first for an adult disease to be added to the National Immunisation Program since 2005.
“The National Shingles Vaccination Program is a major investment by the Turnbull Government in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to improve the health of older Australians,” said Ms Ley.