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Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2021 available now

Routine immunisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report released by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), shows.

Vaccination coverage in children in Australia remained relatively high overall in 2021, despite the major disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, however pandemic impacts on coverage were greater in some areas, particularly remote areas with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a new report has found.

The Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2021, released by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), examines Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) data for children, adolescents and adults and is the first to comprehensively document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health response measures on vaccination coverage.

Vaccination coverage in children

Due to the lag time involved in ‘fully vaccinated’ coverage assessment, the 2021 report predominantly reflects vaccinations due in 2020, and shows a small impact on overall childhood coverage in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, lower than that seen in many other countries.
While coverage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was relatively high overall, timeliness of vaccination remains a persistent issue, with impacts of the pandemic on timely vaccination seen particularly in remote areas.

“‘Fully vaccinated’ coverage assessed at earlier milestones than usual (3 months after vaccines are due) was lower in children living in remote than metropolitan and regional areas. This difference was more marked among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly at 9 months of age with coverage in remote areas in 2021 10 percentage points lower than in major cities and eight percentage points lower than in our 2020 report, suggesting greater pandemic impacts on providing and accessing vaccination in remote areas.” Associate Professor Frank Beard, Associate Director, Surveillance, Coverage, Evaluation and Social Science at NCIRS and The University of Sydney said.

“As younger children are generally more at risk of severe disease, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and socioeconomically disadvantaged children even more so, vaccination at the earliest appropriate age, in line with the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule, is important to protect these children,” Associate Professor Beard said.

Meningococcal B vaccination coverage, for the first cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children eligible to have received 3 doses of meningococcal B vaccine under the NIP, was relatively high for a new program with dose 1 at 78.7% and “shows reasonably good early uptake for this important new program aiming to prevent this severe often life threatening disease in this priority population”, Associate Professor Beard said.

Vaccination coverage in adolescents

Adolescent coverage was also relatively high in 2021, although evidence of pandemic impacts was seen, particularly on HPV vaccine course completion within the calendar year.

“It will be important to ensure that catch-up vaccination in children and adolescents occurs, and to monitor coverage to establish that all pandemic-related dips in coverage and equity gaps are reversed.” Associate Professor Beard said

Vaccination coverage in adults

A strengthened focus on adult vaccination is needed as coverage remained suboptimal in 2021.
Coverage of 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine, introduced onto the NIP in 2020 for all adults aged 70 years and over, was low in 2021, with approximately one-fifth of adults aged 70-79 vaccinated.

“Zoster vaccine coverage in 2021 remained relatively low in the primary target group aged 70 years, at just over 30%, but increased to 47% in those aged 71-79 years, reflecting substantial levels of ongoing catch-up vaccination.” Associate Professor Beard said.

A six-page summary and the full Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2021 are available to view on the NCIRS website.

Read the summary of findings here
Read the full Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2021 here

For media enquiries:
NCIRS media team | | 0429 350 279