The Program for Refugee Immunisation, Monitoring and Education (PRIME)
PRIME is a Victorian Government initiative to support catch-up immunisation in refugee and asylum seeker communities. PRIME is overseen by the Immunisation division of the Department of Health (DH), and an Evaluation Reference Group (ERG). The Victorian Refugee Health Network (VRHN) provides project support and convenes the Immunisation Evaluation Reference Group. PRIME has also included the development of the PAIVnG software platform by VCS Foundation, supporting delivery and monitoring of catch-up vaccinations and providing real-time analytics and reporting.
In 2014, a needs analysis of catch-up vaccination in refugee and asylum seeker communities in Victoria was conducted through the VRHN, with funding provided by the Victorian Government Department of Health (formerly Department of Health and Human Services). This project examined catch-up immunisation for people from refugee backgrounds in Victoria and explored effective models of service delivery to complete catch-up vaccinations. The needs analysis was based on a premise of equity – that refugee-background Victorians should be immunised equivalent to Australian-born persons of the same age.
In late 2015, the VRHN established an interdisciplinary cross-sector Immunisation Working Group chaired by Dr Georgia Paxton (Head of Immigrant Health and Consultant Paediatrician at the Royal Children’s Hospital) to progress recommendations from the 2014 Needs Analysis Report.
The Working Group contributed to the development of the following resources:
- Policy Briefings on No Jab, No Pay – implications for service providers and refugee background communities (March 2016) and ACIR – Issues Arising (June 2016)
- Information sheets for migration support and health providers, and a multilingual brochure for clients (available in Amharic, Arabic, Assyrian, Burmese, Chin, Dari, Farsi, Karen and Tamil).
A summary update detailing progress on the recommendations from the 2014 needs analysis, including recommendations either partially or fully achieved, and those that are still outstanding: Catch-up immunisation in refugee background and asylum seeker communities in Victoria (September 2016)
Conception of PRIME
The Immunisation Working Group resulted in the conception of PRIME. The original PRIME project was funded with $2.72 million over 2016-2019 and ran across four sites – Hume-Whittlesea local government area, City of Greater Dandenong (CGD), the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), and Cabrini Refugee and Asylum Seeker Hub. Funding was then extended. In response to the pandemic, PRIME was scaled up to include support for COVID-19 vaccinations (COVID-PRIME) in refugee and asylum seeker background communities in Victoria. The COVID-PRIME extension program ended on 31st December 2022.
As of the end of June 2022, across the four pilot projects, over 12,400 people have been notified into the project, over 8000 people have initiated catch-up vaccination, over 6900 people have completed vaccination as a result of project activities, and over 8500 now have their full immunisation records on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).
Across CGD and Hume-Whittlesea, which are two key areas for settlement, PRIME data identified considerable under vaccination in refugee and asylum seeker background communities compared to national averages.
Nationally, 88% of adults in the general population have had their booster dose administered, compared to 22% of adults from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds notified into PRIME (prior to project intervention). Similarly, at the national level 9.8% of children aged 5-11 in the general population have had two COVID-19 doses administered, compared to 39% of children of the same age from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds notified into PRIME (prior to project intervention).
The evaluation of the COVID-PRIME program is currently being undertaken.