Free pneumococcal vaccine available for young and senior Australians
Parents of children born after 1 January 2003 and people aged 65 or over are encouraged to visit their local GP or immunisation provider and ask for the pneumococcal vaccine. There is no need for a prescription or to visit a pharmacy.
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14 February 2005
Pneumococcal vaccine has been distributed throughout the country to protect newborn babies and people aged over 65 years under the Australian Government’s free pneumococcal vaccination program.
Parents of children born after 1 January 2003 and people aged 65 or over are encouraged to visit their local GP or immunisation provider and ask for the vaccine. There is no need for a prescription or to visit a pharmacy.
Pneumococcal disease occurs most frequently in children under two and people aged 65 years or over. Vaccination provides the best possible protection against the many strains of the disease. The introduction of these two important preventative health programs on 1 January means that those most vulnerable to contracting the disease will have access to free pneumococcal vaccine this year.
Under the childhood pneumococcal vaccination program, infants born after 1 January 2005 are eligible for free Prevenar® vaccination at two, four and six months of age. The program also includes a catch-up component for all toddlers born after 1 January 2003.
In 2003 there were 2,174 cases and 125 deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease in Australia across all ages. Of those, 447 cases and seven deaths were in children aged under two years and 541 cases and 90 deaths were recorded in people aged over 65 years.
The PneumoVax23 vaccine can be given at the same time as the influenza vaccine, also provided free by the Australian Government to people aged 65 years or over.
The government will spend $178 million on the childhood pneumococcal vaccination program to the end of 2006. To date over 700,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered around the country. The government is also committing to funding the program in future years to enable this to be part of routine vaccination arrangements for all new born babies.
In 1996, Australian Government expenditure on vaccines was $13 million. With the introduction of these two new multi-million dollar pneumococcal vaccination programs, vaccine expenditure by the government this financial year will reach $254 million, an almost 20-fold increase.
For more information call Mr Abbott's office on ph 02 6277 7220.
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