Penrith children are being immunised at levels higher than the national average, but local doctors say there is still room for improvement in the area.
A report recently released by the National Health Performance Authority revealed that, as of December 2013, 94 per cent of five-year-olds in the Penrith area were fully immunised.
Rates are similarly high across the whole Nepean Blue Mountains Medicare Local (NBMML) area, which covers the Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Lithgow and Penrith, with almost 92 per cent of one-year-olds, 93 per cent of two-year-olds and 93 per cent of five-year-olds fully immunised.
These levels are higher than the national average, and are also above the 90 per cent benchmark that keeps most communicable diseases at bay.
Dr Shiva Prakash, the NBMML Board Chair, said that although the statistics reflected positively on the Penrith area, local health professionals need to continue working to increase immunisation rates.
“I think they’re very encouraging but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down, we are achieving our targets but we need to continue to achieve that if we can, we can improve on it too… I’m really proud of being a GP in this area,” he said.
He said that the medical profession needs to work with the elders of the Aboriginal community to increase immunisation rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, which were lower than other local kids.
Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the NBMML area, only 87.8 per cent of one-year-olds and 87.8 per cent of two-year-olds were fully immunised.
Dr Prakash, who has worked in Penrith for 40 years, said that he had never come across any conscientious objectors to immunisation but that he would be prepared to discuss the issue if patients were concerned.
“If I come across someone, there is room for discussion, and the discussion will entail all the known facts as opposed to suppositions. Hopefully to a great extent, we can explain why the immunisation is a necessary aspect of protecting a child from killer diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough and polio,” Dr Prakash said.
He said it is important for parents to ensure their child is up to date with immunisation before they begin attending preschool.
“The ideal time to assess the immunisation status is before they [children] enter into preschool or childcare, because then from there all of a sudden they’re coming into [contact with] another 20 or 30 different kids carrying their own different germs and bacteria.”