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Little impact of COVID-19 pandemic on routine childhood vaccination in Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread social disruption globally, with routine immunisation services affected in many countries. 

Researchers from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) analysed Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) data, assessing uptake monthly and at earlier time points than usual, to determine if the pandemic and associated response measures such as physical distancing and movement restrictions have impacted vaccination uptake in young children.

The report “COVID-19: Impact on routine childhood vaccination uptake in Australia” released today found no substantial impact on vaccination uptake at any of the National Immunisation Program schedule points of 2, 4, 6, 12, 18, and 48 months of age, at national or state/territory level, for vaccines due up to July 2020.  

Read the COVID-19: Impact on routine childhood vaccination uptake in Australia report here

“This report provides the first published evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has had little impact on routine childhood immunisation in Australia,” said lead author Dr Frank Beard, Associate Director, NCIRS. 

“This welcome finding likely reflects a combination of consistent messaging from health authorities about maintaining immunisation during the pandemic, provision of COVID-19 safe vaccination services and continued public engagement with immunisation,” said Dr Beard. 

NCIRS also released its Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2019 today, which shows coverage rates continued to increase in 2019. 

The report, which examined AIR data for children at 12, 24 and 60 months of age, shows that ‘fully vaccinated’ coverage rates were higher in 2019 than 2018 at all three age milestones, for both children overall and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. 

Influenza vaccination coverage for children aged 6 months to under 5 years increased substantially in 2019, for both children overall and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

 “This report demonstrates continuing improvements across a range of immunisation indicators in Australia in 2019,” said Dr Beard. “However, we show that some issues with timeliness of vaccination persist, particularly in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and socioeconomically disadvantaged children.”

The full immunisation coverage report is accompanied by a summary report, which presents key findings from the Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2019.  

Read the full Annual Immunisation Coverage Report 2019 here

Read the Summary of findings here

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