Leading medical experts have backed calls for the federal Government to fund a public education campaign to improve immunisation rates.
The Australian Medical Association and the Public Health Association of NSW argue it is urgently needed especially in areas “influenced by anti-vaccination groups”.
It comes as the Lismore doctor who treated a seven-year-old girl who is now in an induced coma fighting the potential deadly tetanus bacterial disease spoke of his shock at the case.
“She had lock jaw and terribly painful muscle spasms,” Dr Ingall said.
While tetanus is vaccine preventable as part of the pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus shot, there is no cure. The only treatment is an induced coma to stop the painful spasms while the body tries to eliminate the deadly toxin.
Tetanus used to kill around 900 people a year before vaccination. Last year there were seven cases in Australia and no deaths.
Dr Ingall said he had never seen a case of tetanus in Australia in his 39 years as a paediatrician.
“Her parents are absolutely mortified, they are devastated,” he said.
The girl was transferred to Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital where she is in critical condition.
“I’m hopeful she will survive but she will spend weeks on a ventilator. it is so unnecessary,” Dr Ingall said.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon has called on the federal Government to use some of the $148 million saved each year from the No Jab No Pay reforms to be invested in a public campaign to improve jab rates.
Dr Gannon said such a campaign would also help general practitioners who did not have adequate time in a standard consultation to go through the concerns many parents had about immunisation.
Public Health Association of Australia CEO Michael Moore said the it had been calling for the development and implementation of a proactive public communication strategy to promote immunisation since 2015, especially in areas influenced by anti-vaccination groups and where coverage is low in specific age groups.
“We need … to maintain accurate information in the face of the misinformation that tends to be circulated,” Mr Moore said.