Refugees of all ages now eligible for government's national vaccination program


Refugees have enough to worry about when moving to a new country, but catching up on vaccinations in Australia is no longer one of them.

The federal government has made catch-up vaccines available to refugees of all ages on the National Immunisation Program for the first time.

Refugees often arrive in Australia without their vaccinations record.

Those that do have them are often on different vaccination schedules, as they differ from country to country.

But thanks to the National Immunisation Program it will now be far easier than before to stay on track.

"We think this is a really positive step forward," Public Health Association CEO Michael Moore said.

Around half a million Australians aged between 10 and 19 currently lack full immunisation. This threatens the "herd immunity" required to prevent infectious disease outbreaks.

"What it means is that for those very small number of people who have compromised immune systems, and are not able to be vaccinated, the rest of the community's vaccination, by and large, protects them," Mr Moore said.

According to public health studies, immunisation needs to cover 95 per cent of the population to keep it safe.

It pays to guard against complacency as evidenced earlier this year after a measles outbreak in Romania killed 17 children and infected thousands more.

The children who died had not been vaccinated.

Dr Fatin Toma
Dr Fatin Toma, Alice Ewaz, Ayad Ewaz and their two sons Arman (left) and Andre (right).
SBS World News

'I thank God that we reached this safe country'

There are certain diseases which can circulate in the community and they are very dangerous, and very serious," Dr Fatin Toma said.

Dr Toma is a doctor in Sydney's west, who deals with a high number of refugees.

As an Arabic speaker, Dr Toma is often on hand to help families such as the Ewaz's, who moved to Australia from Iraq in November last year.

"We decided to move out of our country because there was no safety," Ayad Ewaz said.

Their six-year-old Andre, and five-year-old Arman received their last catch-up vaccines from Dr Toma during the week.

The boys' mother Alice said she is grateful for the service.

"I feel happy and I thank God that we reached this safe country," Mrs Awaz said.

"Of course I am happy. It's hard to express how happy I am inside."

For Dr Toma, also an Iraqi, it's a chance to make a difference.

"They are from my home country," Dr Toma said.

"I have the same feeling, I'm happy to help them.

"I'm very happy to help everyone, of course. But especially from my home country."

Around half a million Australians aged between 10 and 19 currently lack full immunisation.
SBS World News


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