News & Events

Closing the vaccination coverage gap in New South Wales: the Aboriginal Immunisation Healthcare Worker Program

Jun 2018 - News

A targeted program to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians has made a significant improvement to the vaccination coverage rates and timeliness in New South Wales and “closed the gap” since its introduction in 2012, according to the authors of research published online by the Medical Journal of Australia.

The Aboriginal Immunisation Healthcare Worker (AIHCW) program, funded by NSW Health to the tune of $1.3 million per year, placed up to 13 fulltime-equivalent AIHCW positions in public health units across NSW.
Using data from the Australian Immunisation Register (2008-2016), the researchers, led by Dr Alexandra Hendry from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, found that “the proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children classified as fully vaccinated at 9, 15, and 51 months [of age] increased significantly in both NSW and the rest of Australia after the introduction of the AIHCW Program”.

“The mean annual difference in full vaccination coverage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in NSW aged 9 months declined from 6.6 during 2008–2011 to 3.7 percentage points during 2012–2016; for those aged 15 months it declined from 4.6 to 2.2 percentage points; and for those aged 51 months it declined from 8.5 to 0.6 percentage points.

“In 2016, there was no statistically significant difference in coverage at any of the three milestones in NSW: at 9 months the difference was 1.6 percentage points; at 15 months, 0.4 percentage points; and at 51 months, –1.8 percentage points.

“For Indigenous children aged 9 months, coverage rose from 78.9% in 2008 to 89.5% in 2016, and for non-Indigenous children from 85.6% to 91.1%. For Indigenous children aged 15 months, coverage rose from 78.8% in 2008 to 88.4% and for non-Indigenous children from 82.5% to 88.7%,” Hendry and colleagues wrote.
AIHCWs do not require formal qualifications, their role being to work with their communities and with individuals to promote the better use of existing vaccination services, rather than to directly provide vaccination services.
“Key activities of AIHCWs, most of whom are Indigenous Australians, include contacting parents of Indigenous children before scheduled vaccinations (pre-call notices), following up Indigenous children recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register as not being up to date with vaccinations, improving Indigenous identification, equipping providers with tools for monitoring timely vaccination of Indigenous children, and promoting vaccination in their local Indigenous communities,” Hendry and colleagues wrote.

“[Our results suggest] that the commitment of significant resources to a dedicated program specifically targeted to the needs of Indigenous Australians, staffed by Indigenous workers who know their communities and are able to engage with them in a culturally appropriate way, may help overcome barriers to timely vaccination and have a marked impact on closing the vaccination coverage gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children.”

Closing the vaccination coverage gap in New South Wales: the Aboriginal Immunisation Healthcare Worker Program
Alexandra J Hendry, Frank H Beard, Aditi Dey, Dennis Meijer, Sue Campbell-Lloyd, Katrina K Clark, Brynley P Hull and Vicky Sheppeard
Med J Aust 2018; 209 (1): 24-28. || doi: 10.5694/mja18.00063

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PHN immunisation online community launches with calls for further collaboration

May 2018 - News

NPS MedicineWise and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) have launched an online PHN immunisation community designed to serve as a central hub where PHN staff can have the latest evidence-based information, tools and immunisation resources at their fingertips.

The online community encourages PHN immunisation staff to share ideas, best practice and collaborate with peers across Australia.

With news, updates and the latest immunisation guidelines, the online resource offers a national, coordinated approach to help PHNs to deliver immunisation programs that are consistent with the goals of the National Immunisation Program (NIP). PHN staff, Commonwealth and jurisdictional health and human services department staff and other key stakeholders will have access to the online resources.

NPS MedicineWise and NCIRS have collaborated to develop the online community using the NIP framework and incorporating insights gathered through interviews and co-design workshops with key immunisation stakeholders in health communities across Australia.

Dr Lynn Weekes, CEO of NPS MedicineWise says, “This is excellent use of technology – creating an online environment, a central hub for PHN staff who have to keep abreast of the latest changes to immunisation protocols and guidelines. While it offers practical information that will help to ensure PHN immunisation staff can support local providers in the best possible way, it is an online community where they can network, share ideas and actively collaborate with their peers.”

An advisory group has been established to provide strategic guidance from a stakeholder perspective on the priorities and performance of the program. The group is co-chaired by Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of NCIRS, and Learne Durrington, CEO of WA Primary Health Alliance.

Professor Macartney says, “The PHN online community gathers key messages that PHNs are tasked to communicate to immunisation providers in their areas. Additionally, we will support PHN staff by answering their immunisation questions. PHNs can be confident that any information they receive is from reliable sources, and will offer up-to-date, evidence-based immunisation information.”

Community engagement will be encouraged by offering face-to-face and online opportunities where PHN staff can share and exchange ideas and information with other PHNs and key stakeholders.

PHN staff are encouraged to register at phnimmunise.org.au to access the latest immunisation information.

Media enquiries

Eve Hanks:

  • 0419 618 365
  • ehanks@nps.org.au

Updated NCIRS Factsheets - Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for Australians and HPV vaccines – frequently asked questions

May 2018 - News

The following factsheets have been updated and are now available on the NCIRS website:

The factsheet has been updated to include information on Gardasil®9.

These and other NCIRS factsheets are available on the NCIRS factsheets webpage.


January - March 2018 - Newsletter

Mar 2018 - Newsletters

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Updated Factsheets - Meningococcal vaccines for Australians and Meningococcal vaccines – frequently asked questions

Mar 2018 - News

The following fact sheets have been updated:

The updates include the latest information on jurisdictional programs and information on a newly registered Meningococcal B vaccine, Trumenba®. 

 These and other NCIRS factsheets are available on the NCIRS factsheets webpage.

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Media Release - ‘No Jab No Pay’ drives adolescent measles vaccination catch-up

Mar 2018 - News

A new report from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) shows that over 43,000 10- to 19-year olds received a catch-up second dose of measles-containing vaccine in 2016, most of these likely actioned as a result of the federal government’s ‘No Jab No Pay' policy.

This report is the first look at catch-up vaccination in adolescents since the introduction of the federal government’s ‘No Jab No Pay' policy on 1 January 2016.[1] Data from the newly expanded national immunisation register was used for this analysis.

The report also found the proportion of children fully immunised at 1 and 5 years of age had reached the highest levels ever recorded in mid-2016 (at 93.9% and 93.5% respectively), likely due, in part, to the introduction of the ‘No Jab No Pay' policy.

Dr Frank Beard, public health physician, and head of coverage and surveillance at NCIRS, described the level of measles vaccination catch-up in adolescents and improved immunisation rates in younger children as important outcomes.

“While Australia has been certified free of local measles, we need to maintain high immunisation rates as we are constantly at threat from measles coming into the country from overseas and spreading locally,” he said.

“Measles catch-up vaccination in adolescents is particularly important, as recent outbreaks have disproportionately affected this age group due to inadequate vaccination,” he added.

In the 2012 measles outbreak, the largest in Australia since 1997 (168 cases) arising as a result of a traveller returning from Thailand with measles,[2] the 10- to 19-year-old age group was over-represented, accounting for almost one third of cases.

The NCIRS report complements the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare “Healthy Communities” reports on immunisation rates at local area level, also released on Thursday, by highlighting whether vaccines are given on time, and the uptake of specific vaccines, including those given only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The report also shows trends in the numbers of children with a registered medical vaccination exemption.

View the 2016 NCIRS Annual Immunisation Coverage report and summary of key findings

View the AIHW ‘Immunisation rates for children 2016–17’ and ‘HPV immunisation rates 2015–16’ reports 

Media contact:
Sheri Locmayon
Public Relations Department
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
P: (02) 9845 3364
E: sherilyn.locmayon@health.nsw.gov.au

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AusVaxSafety adds Gardasil®9 to active surveillance

Mar 2018 - News

From January 2018, people aged around 12 to 14 years are being offered the new HPV vaccine (Gardasil®9) in a 2-dose schedule through school-based programs under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

AusVaxSafety, Australia’s real-time active vaccine safety surveillance system, will monitor Gardasil®9 safety to accompany this change to the NIP. AusVaxSafety is led by NCIRS and predominantly uses the SmartVax survey tool to gather feedback from recently vaccinated Australians. AusVaxSafety data are provided to state and territory health departments, and the Australian Government Department of Health to inform vaccine safety in Australia.

Active surveillance of the new HPV vaccine will provide valuable safety data desired by consumers, parents and the general public. Inclusion of school-based vaccination under AusVaxSafety further demonstrates the flexibility of the system to adapt to new vaccine safety surveillance needs in Australia.

AusVaxSafety currently actively monitors pertussis vaccine in children, zoster vaccine in older adults and all-age influenza vaccines. The results can be viewed on the AusVaxSafety website.


Professor Kristine Macartney appointed NCIRS Director

Mar 2018 - News

Congratulations to Professor Kristine Macartney on her appointment as Director of the National Centre for Research and Surveillance (NCIRS). In addition to this appointment, Kristine is also Senior Staff Specialist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Professor in Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and Senior Editor of The Australian Immunisation Handbook.

Kristine has held the key leadership position of Deputy Director, NCIRS since 2010 and has been instrumental in the growth and success of numerous program areas within NCIRS that are of state, national and international importance, including two national surveillance networks: Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) and Active Vaccine Safety Surveillance (AusVaxSafety).

Kristine’s research at NCIRS has focussed on all aspects of vaccinology and vaccine-preventable disease control, especially viral diseases, vaccine policy-making and vaccine safety. She has authored more than 110 peer-reviewed publications.

Kristine has held roles on numerous key peak advisory committees, including the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and the Advisory Committee on Vaccines (ACV) of the TGA. In the last 5 years, Kristine has been an investigator on NHMRC grants on vaccines and infectious diseases, totalling $9.8 million in funding.


Media Release - Extensive evaluation of scientific studies confirms HPV vaccine safety

Mar 2018 - News

The National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance (NCIRS) has undertaken an extensive evaluation of the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) vaccines in use globally, confirming their excellent safety profile and will continue to monitor the vaccine.

Four out of five people will be infected with HPV in their lifetime; this infection can lead to cancer and other diseases. HPV vaccine protects against cervical and other cancers and is recommended for routine vaccination at age 12-13 years. It is delivered primarily through free, school-based immunisation programs.

In 2018, a new HPV vaccine, Gardasil®9, which protects against additional HPV types, will be used in Australia. AusVaxSafety, Australia’s national active vaccine safety surveillance system, will monitor Gardasil®9 safety from 2018 to accompany this change to the National Immunisation Program (NIP). AusVaxSafety is led by NCIRS and predominantly uses the SmartVax survey tool to gather feedback from recently vaccinated Australians.

In recent years, misinformation about the safety of HPV vaccine has affected confidence in vaccination, which in turn has reduced the number of young people being vaccinated in some countries. Importantly, Australia continues to have one of the highest vaccination coverage rates for HPV vaccine globally, with approximately three quarters of young males and females taking up the vaccine to be protected against cancer.

Our extensive review of HPV vaccine safety examined 109 studies including 15 population-based studies in over 2.5 million vaccinated individuals across six countries. The findings built on an earlier review of over 100 earlier studies.

Key insights from this review include:

  • There is a large amount of information on HPV vaccines, but the information is of variable quality. High quality, well-conducted scientific studies confirm that the vaccine is safe
  • Evidence shows HPV vaccine is very safe overall. It doesn’t increase the risk of developing nervous system or autoimmune conditions

The incoming Director of NCIRS and paediatric infectious disease specialist Professor Kristine Macartney says, “Prevention of cervical and other HPV-related cancers is vital worldwide. Our thorough review of all current studies confirms the safety of this life-saving vaccine. Our findings align with reports from the World Health Organization and many other experts that have deemed HPV vaccines to be ‘extremely safe’”. In addition, AusVaxSafety will provide real time feedback from vaccinated adolescents at select sites across Australia to continue to track safety as Gardasil9 is rolled-out.

Co-author Associate Prof Julia Brotherton, Medical Director of the National HPV Vaccination Program Register, agrees that the review reinforces the known safety of the vaccine, saying “The high levels of uptake we have achieved with this vaccine shows that Australian parents do want their kids to be protected against HPV and the cancers it can cause. We have more than 10 years of experience now showing that parents are right in confidently choosing to vaccinate their kids in our world leading school based programs.”

Download the media release


ASID Adult Immunisation Satellite Workshop

Feb 2018 - Events

'Vaccination is not just for kids': what infectious disease physicians need to know

Wednesday, 9 May 2018, 2.30 pm – 5.30 pm
Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa

This workshop, organised by the AusVaxSafety group at NCIRS, in partnership with Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination In the Community (SAEFVIC), is being held prior to the ASID Annual Scientific Meeting.

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