Fri, 09/11/2020 | News

Important updates made to Australian Immunisation Register

Important updates have been made to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) relating to recording Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter respectfully referred to as Indigenous) status, catch-up schedule information and amended pneumococcal rules.

Recording Indigenous status on AIR

Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a national priority. The National Immunisation Program (NIP) for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provides additional vaccines to help improve the health of Indigenous people, and close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health and life expectancy.

To identify Indigenous people who may require additional vaccines, vaccination providers can now record Indigenous status directly on AIR and it will not be over-ridden by their status recorded by Medicare. AIR Indigenous status will not be recorded on any other government database and it does not need to be the same as Medicare.

Recording an Indigenous status on AIR helps vaccination providers to identify and give the clinically correct vaccination schedule.

Vaccination providers should seek consent from the person at the time of a vaccination encounter before recording their Indigenous status on AIR. There is no change to how a person’s Indigenous status is recorded on AIR.

Up to date records help determine the impact of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) in preventing vaccine-preventable diseases. In turn, vaccination coverage figures and data available for research purposes become more comprehensive and reliable over time.

Catch-up schedule to display on immunisation history statement

Australian Government legislation requires children to meet immunisation requirements to be eligible for family payments (No Jab No Pay). To meet the immunisation requirements for family payments, one of the following must apply to a child:

  • be immunised according to the NIP childhood schedule
  • be on an approved catch-up vaccination schedule
  • have a valid exemption

Catch-up vaccination aims to protect people against disease as quickly as possible. It aims to help people get up to date with their vaccination schedule in the shortest, but most effective, time frame.

From February 2020, if a person is on an approved immunisation catch-up schedule registered on the AIR the:

  • catch-up schedule will display on the top of the immunisation history statement
  • date it expires will also show.

This helps give people a complete picture of their immunisation status. It gives parents and guardians evidence of a child’s vaccination status for childcare or school entry. It also lets other vaccination providers know how a person’s vaccination needs are being managed.

Amended pneumococcal rules and the introduction of reminder letters for older Australians

On 1 July 2020, the recommended age on the NIP for older Australians to receive the pneumococcal vaccine changed from 65 to 70 years. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pneumococcal is recommended from 50 years. Vaccination against shingles is still recommended for people from 70 years of age and can be administered at the same time as pneumococcal vaccine.

Note: Shingles (herpes zoster) vaccination is contraindicated in people with significant immunocompromise due to a primary or acquired medical condition, or medical treatment. Please assess your patients’ current circumstances and refer to the online Australian Immunisation Handbook for more information as to whether vaccination is appropriate.

In line with the 1 July 2020 schedule changes, Services Australia will send a reminder letter to people who are eligible for a pneumococcal and/or shingles vaccination.

Letters will be sent to:

  • people 70 years and 1 month of age who have not received pneumococcal and/or shingles vaccinations
  • people aged 50 years and 1 month displaying an Indigenous status in the AIR who have not received their pneumococcal vaccination.

These reminder letters will encourage people to contact their vaccination provider to:

  • discuss any NIP funded vaccination/s they may be eligible for
  • request the AIR be updated with any vaccines they have already received but have not been recorded on the AIR.

A reminder to health professionals

Immunisation is an essential health service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health professionals must maintain routine immunisation services and ensure on-time vaccination according to the current recommended schedules.

To ensure that immunisation services can continue to be conducted safely without exposing healthcare workers and the wider community to undue risk, providers need to adapt their procedures and practice to comply with measures in place, including physical distancing, to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

For further enquiries, send an email to immunisation.registers@health.gov.au