What is a vaccine preventable disease?

Vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) can have a severe impact on individuals and the community. A VPD is a disease that can be prevented, or its impact reduced through immunisation (generally with a vaccine). Vaccines stimulate the body’s immune system to protect against future infection.
The Australian Government provides free vaccines to eligible people. In 2018, the Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule provided vaccines against 17 diseases.

This analysis focuses on the 17 diseases with vaccines in the NIP schedule in 2018. The diseases included are chickenpox, diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), influenza, measles, meningococcal disease, mumps, pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus, rubella, shingles, tetanus and whooping cough.

What is burden of disease?

Burden of disease analysis is a way to measure, combine and compare the impact of different diseases, conditions or injuries on a population. It measures the impact of living with illness and injury and dying prematurely. The summary measure ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (DALY) measures the years of healthy life lost from death (fatal burden) and illness or injury (non-fatal burden).

Most VPD burden was due to premature death

The 17 VPD covered under the NIP schedule were responsible for almost 16,000 DALY in 2015, at a rate of 62 DALY per 100,000 population. Most of the burden (80%) was due to premature death (fatal burden).

5 diseases accounted for almost all of the total VPD burden

In 2015, influenza, pneumococcal disease, HPV, shingles and meningococcal disease accounted for almost 95% of the total VPD burden.

Contribution of individual diseases to overall burden (DALY) due to VPD, 2015 (%)

The stacked bar chart shows influenza contributed the largest overall burden (DALY) at 36%25, followed by pneumococcal and HPV each at 24%25, shingles at 7%25, meningococcal at 4%25, with all other vaccine preventable diseases combined contributing 5%25 to the overall burden in 2015.

Note: ‘All other VPD’ comprises hepatitis B, whooping cough, chickenpox, rotavirus, hepatitis A, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, rubella, Hib, mumps and polio.

Burden decreased between 2005 and 2015

The overall rate of burden due to VPD decreased by almost one-third (31%) between 2005 and 2015.

Comparing 2 time points of 2015 and 2005, the Burden of Vaccine Preventable Diseases in Australia study (BVPD study) has shown a reduction in the burden for a number of diseases for which vaccines have been added to, or vaccine eligibility extended on, the NIP schedule during the past 20 years—such as HPV, chickenpox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease and rotavirus.

The introduction of vaccines appears to have reduced both the number of cases and the overall disease burden associated with these diseases.

Burden rate higher among Indigenous Australians

Estimates of the burden among Indigenous Australians are provided for 13 VPD: chickenpox, Hib, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, influenza, measles, meningococcal disease, mumps, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, shingles and whooping cough.  

In 2015, VPD among Indigenous Australians accounted for 10% of the burden due to these 13 specified VPD.  After adjusting for differences in population age structure, the Indigenous burden rate was 4.1 times that for non-Indigenous Australians.

Between 2005 and 2015, the age-standardised rate of burden among Indigenous Australians decreased by almost 41% (more on Indigenous Australians).