The suburbs with the lowest child vaccination rates across the country have been revealed this morning, with the Federal Health Minister releasing this information as part of a new campaign to get all Australian kids immunised. For more, Minister Greg Hunt joins us live now.
Minister, good morning to you. So what is the program? And state by state, how are vaccination rates looking?
Good morning. So what we have at the moment is a national campaign to get every child possible vaccinated. It saves lives, it protects lives.
What we see is that there are specific areas within particular states, so, whether it’s the Gold Coast hinterland, the Richmond Valley in New South Wales, some of the inner suburbs of Melbourne or of Adelaide, inner suburbs in Perth and in particular down in Margaret River.
So we’re going to be targeting those areas with a new immunisation Get the Facts campaign, and that’s about getting the rates up to 95 per cent and then towards 100 per cent, and ultimately we’ll be focusing very, very tightly on those areas with lower than average vaccination rates.
So I mean, how are you going to target them? I mean, is it all part of an advertising campaign? Are you sending in workshops? What are you going to do?
So what we’re able to do now, of course, is through Facebook and Google, focusing as well through the GP practices on very specific local information.
So we can work with parents that are in the cautious or uncertain group.
Most parents are very comfortable, there are a small number who have diametrically opposed views, but then there’s about 10 to 12 per cent who are simply seeking more information, and it’s understandable that they want to know that their children are safe.
Vaccination is safe, and we’re right at the forefront of global vaccination programs.
Well, what about those critics? I mean, you just mentioned it there. There are going to be some of them who oppose this, so I mean, they might say, well, we should have a choice in whether or not we can vaccinate our kids.
Well, parents do have a choice, but we want to make sure that the information is there that if you don’t vaccinate your child, you’re risking their lives and you’re risking the lives of other children.
And we have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but we have to drive towards the 95 per cent level which is described by the medical professionals as the right level for herd immunity, for protecting the population as a whole, and then to try to get as close to 100 per cent as possible – subject to any medical conditions for individual children.
But this really does save lives, and it really does protect lives, and it makes a massive difference. And if you’ve ever met, as the Prime Minister and I have, a parent who’s lost a child to whooping cough because of other children that weren’t vaccinated, you know that this is the right thing and the humane thing and the decent thing and the responsible thing to do.
Minister, you would have seen on the front pages of News Corp newspapers this morning, generations of women will be saved as cervical cancer is set to be wiped out, thanks to a ground-breaking HPV vaccine.
So could Australia be one of the first nations in the world to get rid of cervical cancer? Is that a real thing?
Australia can and should be perhaps the world’s first nation to eliminate cervical cancer. It doesn’t happen overnight.
We’ve halved our rates since the early 1990s, we’re on track to halve our rates again by 2035, but we want to go further and aim for the elimination of cervical cancer in Australia, and two big things do that.
One, we have a new national screening program and test which began on 1 December - a better test, a more effective test. And we’ve just introduced Gardasil 9 which is the new vaccine being brought in to teenagers, which again, improves and increases the rate of protection coupled with the better cancer treatments.
This is an extraordinary potential to eliminate cervical cancer in Australia.
Meanwhile over on Fairfax, Minister, just because you’re not quite sick of Barnaby Joyce yet, he can’t stay away from the headlines, he has given an interview to Fairfax, saying he was never asked if he was the father of his former staffer’s unborn child, and that the issue of paternity was not certain.
So do you believe this calls into question a key factor in Mr Joyce’s removal from the second highest position in the land?
Look, I don’t have anything to add on that. I’m not across the details, and I don’t think it’s remotely appropriate for me to make any comment on it.
If it is though, isn’t it- don’t you think this is something that should be kept private?
Look, I do think that this is a private matter for them. It’s not a matter for me to comment on, and I absolutely respect your question on this but I’m sure you’ll understand that it’s not something I’ll be adding to.
Alright. Minister, thank you very much for your time this morning.