Date published: 
31 October 2018
Media type: 
Media release
General public

In a highly significant public health accomplishment for Australia, the World Health Organization (WHO) has verified that Australia has eliminated rubella, a contagious viral illness that can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.

Rubella, also known as German measles, is a contagious viral illness that causes a fever, rash and swollen lymph glands.

If contracted by pregnant women during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the disease can result in miscarriage or stillbirth or cause life-long problems for their babies.

The elimination of rubella is a great day for public health in Australia and sends a powerful message that vaccinations work.

I commend the efforts of Australia’s health professionals over the decades and the millions of parents who ensure their children are always vaccinated.

Our National Immunisation Program played an essential role this huge achievement by ensuring high levels of vaccination coverage for rubella.

Only last week I announced the nation-wide immunisation rates for five year olds was 94.62 per cent, which is the highest figure on record.

The science is in and the medical experts’ advice is absolute - vaccinations save lives and protect lives and they are an essential part of a healthy society.

Australia has high-performing surveillance systems to rapidly detect and respond to rubella cases and today’s confirmation this disease has been eliminated is testimony to the success of our National Immunisation Program.

Australia has had rolling epidemics of rubella with the largest number of cases reported in 1958 with over 5,000 notified cases, 1963-64 with over 3,000 notified cases and in the early 1990s with more than 4,000 notified cases.

The current National Immunisation Program provides free vaccination for protection against rubella for children aged 12 months with a booster at 18 months.

The WHO has confirmed Australia has also maintained its measles elimination status, after being verified in 2014.

Measles and rubella are very contagious and remain endemic in many countries so we need to remain vigilant and keep our vaccinations up to date.

The Morrison Government has invested $446.5 million in the National Immunisation Program this financial year.

Our Government’s strong economic management ensures we continue to invest record amounts of funding into vital health initiatives including Medicare, hospitals and vaccination programs.