Monday, April 16, 2012

HCCA Submission on the ACT Immunisation Strategy 2012-2016

Recently, the HCCA had the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft proposal for the ACT Immunisation Strategy 2012-2016. This four year strategy is aimed at ensuring the “quality, safety and effectiveness of the ACT Immunisation Program”, as well as improving immunisation coverage, decreasing the prevalence of vaccine preventable diseases and continuing to deliver education and resources to vaccine providers.

The Strategy contained five key focus areas, each of which consisted of a number of specific objectives. The focus areas were: childhood immunisation, adolescent and adult immunisation; populations at risk; communication and education; and the supply and safety of vaccines.

Immunisation is increasingly becoming a topic of great debate in Australia, as many people have become concerned with the adverse effects associated with certain vaccines. At the same time, there are also concerns regarding the accessibility of information and vaccines for members of the community who are considered particularly at risk of complications from vaccine preventable diseases. These include alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) users and new migrants, who are unlikely to have received adequate vaccination or disease testing in their country of origin. As such, it would be important for any new immunisation strategy to include plans to improve communication and education regarding vaccines as well as effective procedures for detecting and managing adverse reactions to vaccines. As health care consumers, we have a vital role to play in addressing these issues and need to be provided with the information and resources to do so.

The recommendations we made in our submission primarily revolved around the need for enhanced communication and information sharing between the ACT Government, vaccine providers and consumers in accordance with the Australian Charter of Health Care Rights. This will assist the strategy in meeting the requirements of consumer-centred care. We were particularly concerned that the focus area ‘communication and education’ concentrated only on vaccine providers, and not health care consumers.

The following reflects the key issues covered in our submission:

  • We raised the possibility of developing a strategy to deal effectively with epidemics and any issues arising as a result.
  • The need for the development of a clear framework to detect and manage adverse reactions that is easily accessible for consumers.
  • The importance of open channels of communication between immunisation providers and consumers. This includes creating a non-judgmental environment that facilitates questioning and allows consumers to participate in our own health care.
  • The need for effective communication between immunisation providers and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) health care consumers, particularly for members of migrant communities who may have missed out on vaccinations in the past.
  • The need for the provision of expertly trained immunisation providers for members of the community who are immunosuppressed, have a history of severe allergic reactions, or are living with autoimmune diseases.
  • That support needs be redirected from Youth Drop-In centres to other youth services and facilities with regard to vaccine provision.

Finally, it was recommended that the Strategy be finalised in consultation with a number of consumer groups, as they represent the individuals who are the focus of the strategy and will be most affected by it. This also applies to migrant groups, as CALD individuals represent a significant proportion of the ACT community and it is important that they have the opportunity to shape the policies relating to the health services they use.

You can read the full submission here.

Nicole Moyle
Research Assistant

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