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New report spotlights Australia’s immunisation inequity

 National Seniors Australia, with the support of leading clinical experts, have called on the Government to end the immunisation inequity failing the health of our nation’s seniors in the wake of a new report, Seniors and Immunisation in Australia, which paints a bleak picture of the burden of vaccine-preventable disease on all aspects of life, and in particular the economic and social contribution of our seniors.

With Australians over the age of 60 injecting $40.5 billion dollars into the nation’s GDP annually, in addition to invaluable unpaid contributions equating to billions saved (via free disability care, child care and volunteering) Associate Professor Michael Woodward of Austin Health believes shifting the nation’s focus towards whole of life immunisation is vital to help protect the health of older Australians. He says this could also help the economic and social wellbeing of the nation.

Current Australian immunisation guidelines recommending older Australians are vaccinated against four diseases – pneumococcal, flu, tetanus and shingles – only pneumococcal and influenza vaccines are funded on the NIP.  In comparison, vaccines to safeguard the nation’s children from 12 diseases are made available by the Government on the NIP.9,10,11,12,13

 The report, ‘Seniors and immunisation in Australia: Awareness, experiences and attitudes,’ was developed by the National Seniors Australia Productive Ageing Centre and commissioned by bioCSL. It is based on the preventative health and immunisation survey conducted online with National Senior Australia’s members between December 2013 and January 2014, with 793 Australians 50 years and over responding to the survey.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Four out of five believe they are entitled to government funded vaccines
  • Of the 20 per cent who had had shingles, 51 per cent claimed it affected their social activities, 45 per cent said it affected their daily chores, 32 per cent stated it affected their work, 25 per cent said it affected their volunteering and 16 per cent said it affected their ability to care for others
  • Twenty one per cent of seniors provided care (for children or persons with a disability), for an average of 25.7 hours per week. The majority of those providing care (65 per cent) would have difficulty finding alternative care if, due to ill health, they were unable to provide care for one month or more