The Government announces free hepatitis A vaccine for Indigenous childrenCurrent topic
|The following summary has been adapted from a media release and information for the general public provided by the Department of Health and Ageing.
The Commonwealth Government will be providing free hepatitis A vaccine from 1 November 2005 for all Indigenous children aged five years and under living in Queensland, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia. Immunisation will protect children under five, and prevent the spread of hepatitis A to older children and adults who are at risk of more serious disease.
Hepatitis A is endemic in many remote Indigenous communities. It is a viral illness which causes inflammation of the liver and is closely linked with poor environmental health conditions. Some people with the infection have no symptoms, others can experience symptoms such as fever, weakness, lack of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort and jaundice (yellow colouring of eyes, skin and urine). The disease can be mild (lasting a few weeks) or severe and disabling (lasting several months), and in rare cases it can be fatal.
A successful vaccination program in north Queensland Indigenous communities has lead the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation to recommend the wider use of this vaccine for Indigenous children in States and Territories with a high incidence of hepatitis A. Around 30,000 Indigenous children will be eligible for free vaccination under the new program. Vaccines will be administered in two doses. The first dose will be given from 12 months of age with a second dose required six months later. Information about the vaccinations is available from State/Territory Health Departments.
For further information:
Minister for Health and Ageing
Department of Health and Ageing