Ill health caused by vaccine preventable diseases fell by 31% from 2005 to 2015 due to national immunisation programs, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The burden of vaccine preventable diseases in Australia measures the combined impact of living with an illness or injury (non-fatal burden) or dying prematurely (fatal burden), focusing on the 17 diseases with vaccines in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule in 2018.
The most notable decrease in burden was among infants, young children and young adults aged 15–24, whereas rates of burden among people aged 65 and over increased. The latter was mainly driven by increases in influenza and shingles.
The impact of vaccines can clearly be seen as new vaccines are introduced. In the decade to 2015, large declines were seen in the burden of disease for rotavirus (85% – added to the NIP schedule in 2007), chickenpox (75% – added in 2005), human papillomavirus (67% – added in 2007 for females and in 2013 for males) and meningococcal disease (58% – added in 2003). The number of cases of these diseases decreased considerably over the period.
The impact of long-term widespread vaccination in Australia is also apparent, with the burden due to diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, rubella and haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) remaining at very low levels.
Differences in burden over time are affected by cyclic epidemics of diseases such as influenza and whooping cough, as well as changes in testing, surveillance and reporting practices.
The rate of burden due to influenza in 2015 was more than 4 times that in 2005, while burden rates for whooping cough and shingles in 2015 were 73% and 44% greater, respectively, than in 2005.
The rate of burden among Indigenous Australians in 2015 was 4 times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians. However, the rate of disease burden among Indigenous Australians decreased by 41% between 2005 and 2015, and the gap in burden between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians narrowed.
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