Report launch: Protecting Australia – closing the gap in immunisation for migrants and refugees

Date Published:
17 Mar 2014
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Proceedings from the CRE stakeholder workshop

The NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Immunisation in Under-studied and Special Risk Populations is pleased to launch the proceedings of a national stakeholder workshop. This report identifies gaps in immunisation policy and practice in Australia and provides recommendations to ensure equitable access to immunisation for newly arrived migrants and refugees in Australia and to protect Australia’s successful National Immunisation Program from an identified gap which leave us susceptible to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.


Australia’s first national stakeholder workshop on immunisation issues for migrants and refugees was held on 9th August 2013 at UNSW Australia, convened by the NHMRC CRE.  The workshop was attended by more than 100 invited experts and stakeholders from around Australia, including leaders in infectious disease and migrant and refugee health research, from general practice and other immunisation providers, industry, government representatives, as well as multicultural and refugee health networks. This provided a forum to review the data and evidence, identify gaps, exchange ideas and propose potential solutions in the collective national interest.

A key finding of the workshop was the lack of a systematic mechanism for catch-up immunisation for migrants and refugees, which leaves this population vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. It is in our national interest to address these gaps in communicable disease control and the ongoing success of Australia’s National Immunisation Program.


The immunisation gap in migrants and refugees is everyone’s business, and we cannot afford to pass the buck. The recent outbreaks of measles in Sydney occurred despite high rates of measles vaccination as measured by our immunisation register. We cannot control infectious diseases in Australia without closing this gap. It is in our national interest to find a way forward to address this gap in communicable disease control.”

-        Professor Raina MacIntyre, Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence.


This report provides an opportunity for government and primary health care providers to work together with migrant and refugee communities to improve immunisation rates.”

-        Dr Margaret Kay, General Practitioner and Senior Lecturer at the School of Medicine, The University of Queensland and workshop presenter.


Newly arrived migrants and refugees are not a major health risk to other Australians. However, they come from countries that do not always offer the same range of immunisations as Australia. It is in everyone’s interests to ensure that new arrivals receive all the appropriate immunisations, to protect the persons being immunised and to maintain population protection.”

-        Professor David Isaacs, Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Infectious Diseases & Microbiology, and the Health Assessments for Refugee Kids Clinic, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Clinical Professor in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Sydney and workshop presenter.


"The majority of migrants and refugees arriving in Australia are from countries whose immunisation programs are far less comprehensive than our own. They are often vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, hepatitis B and certain types of bacterial meningitis now seen rarely in Australian-born people as a result of our governmentally funded vaccination policies. The Centre for Research Excellence is to be congratulated on its efforts to engage with stakeholders and communities to help address inequalities in this important area of preventive health."

-        Professor Margaret Burgess, Division of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney and founding director of Australia’s National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the CRE in Immunisation


"I am pleased that the NHMRC CRE in Immunisation has been able to convene all stakeholders from around the country for the first time to discuss the issue of control of vaccine-preventable diseases in migrants and refugees. It is important for groups such as this, who are independent of vested interests, to take on an advocacy role for identified gaps in public health. The recommendations from this workshop are concrete, actionable ideas which is a valuable contribution to national disease control efforts. I look forward to seeing some or all of these recommendations considered and implemented nationally." 

-        Professor Peter Smith, Dean, UNSW Medicine.


Media Contacts:

Professor Raina MacIntyre
Director, NHMRC CRE in Immunisation
School of Public Health and Community Medicine
UNSW Australia
Phone: +61 2 93853811


Dr Anita Heywood
School of Public Health and Community Medicine
UNSW Australia
Phone: +61 2 9385 3667