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Fresh jab at promoting vaccinations

AAP logoAAP 10/10/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Doctors and the federal government fear a new wave of anti-vaccination sentiment in some parts of Australia could lead to higher rates of serious illness.

A revised booklet on the science and benefits of vaccination was launched by Health Minister Sussan Ley, leading scientists and doctors in Canberra on Monday.

Ms Ley said vaccination rates had risen from 53 per cent in the late 1980s to over 90 per cent today, but there was still a need to be vigilant.

"This is not something we can ever take a backwards step from," she said.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said the immunisation program had been so successful in recent decades, many younger people were unaware of the permanent disability or death that can can occur as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases.

"Vaccines are safe. Vaccines save lives," he said.

While some areas have very high rates of immunisation coverage, some such as the Gold Coast, western Sydney and the NSW north coast have rates as low as 86 per cent.

To achieve high levels of protection, vaccination coverage must be between 90 and 95 per cent of the population.

The government's No Jab No Pay policy, linked to welfare payments, has led to almost 6000 children who had previously been registered as conscientious objectors being immunised.

And more than 148,000 children who had fallen behind the schedule were now up to date with their immunisations.

Dr Gannon said while welfare-linked measures worked in some areas, there were concerns about low rates in some wealthier areas.

"We must think about measures that will increase immunisations in these areas, too," he said.

Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty said much of the misinformation about vaccination was coming from the United States, where "anti-vaxxers" received equal billing in the media as scientists with years of experience in the field.

"We are stuck with the reality and science but they are not stuck at all - they can make it up as they go along," he said.

"We have to go beyond our usual means of communication."

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