The Department of Health and Human Services is funding the Hume/Whittlesea Refugee Immunisation Project – a pilot project in northwest Melbourne to support the referral, tracking and follow-up of newly arrived humanitarian entrants to ensure they receive recommended immunisations for age, according to the Australian schedule. Initial findings from this project indicate that of the 1,215 people notified to the project who had all been in Australia for greater than 12 months, only 19% were up to date for age. The graph below identifies the percentage of those fully immunised by age group.
Percentage of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers up to date for immunisation by age group (n=1215)
Health care providers are reminded to assess the need for catch-up immunisations for all refugees and asylum seekers, regardless of age. Catch-up vaccines are provided for free for this population.
Vaccine preventable diseases are endemic and/or epidemic in many countries which refugees and asylum seekers originate from. This population is likely to have experienced disrupted access to services and poor health infrastructure, low quality vaccines compromised by cold chain breaches, and a period of mobility that poses a significant barrier to achieving high vaccine coverage or appropriate levels of herd immunity. It is well documented that refugees and asylum seekers have rarely had access to vaccines consistent with those on the Australian immunisation schedule.