Childhood immunisation in Australia is high by worldwide standards at 93 per cent.
However only 51 per cent of the 3.5 million Australians over 65s have had both their pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations.
“Influenza and pneumonia are the most common cause of death by infections in Australia,” Professor Raina MacIntyre, from the University of NSW, said.
“These vaccines are safe, they’re provided by the government, it’s really a no-brainer.”
Prof MacIntyre is the co-author of a report by the Medical Journal of Australia which revealed that 3.8 million Australian adults are missing out on free vaccinations each year.
To coincide with the report, UNSW has launched the Vaccine and Infection Research Lab, which will tackle the issue of low adult vaccination rates and try to reduce the gap between infant and adult vaccination.
Kevin Condon, 74, has suffered through both shingles and pneumonia in his lifetime. He knows the value of a preventative vaccination.
Shots against influenza and pneumonia are free to over 65s and a shingles vaccination is free to over 70s, under the Immunise Australia Program.
“Why, if you can avoid the risk of long-term permanent damage, why risk that for a vaccination that’s free?” Mr Condon said.
There’s also a problem with the refugee and migrant population when it comes to vaccines.
Tanzanian student Abela Mahibo has nearly finished her PhD and has found that significant barriers stand in the way of migrant immunisation.
“Gaps in funding are the main issue,” she said. “Then there’s the complexity of catch-up schedules.
“Funding should be available to all refugees, regardless of their age, after they’ve arrived here in Australia.”
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