South Australia leading way on immunisation and cancer screening

Immunisation coverage rates are at an all-time high in SA and are nearing the national target of 95 per cent, giving the Marshall Liberal Government confidence that South Australians will not hesitate to protect themselves when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

The latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2021 found the proportion of children aged between 12 months to less than 15 months who were fully immunised in South Australia in 2019-20 was 94.7 per cent, just above the national average of 94.6 percent and up from 91.2 per cent in 2014-15.

In the same period, 91.9 percent of South Australian children aged 24 months to less than 27 months were fully immunised (0.2 percentage points above the national average) and 94.6 percent of children aged 60 months to less than 63 months were fully immunised in SA, consistent with the national average.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the immunisation rates were especially pleasing given the imminent rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

“This is a fantastic result, especially as immunisation coverage rates in Australia are known to be under reported,” Minister Wade said.

“It’s encouraging to see South Australians are continuing to take steps to protect their own health and the health of their children.

“Vaccines save lives and protect lives and that fact has never been more pertinent than today, as we see the devastating impacts COVID-19 is having around the world.

“Immunisation is one of our best tools in the fight against this virus and other viruses and, once the COVID-19 vaccine program is up and running, I would encourage all South Australians to get vaccinated.

In line with increasing immunisation rates, in 2019-20, South Australia recorded the lowest rate in 10 years of pertussis (whooping cough) for children aged 0-14 years.

South Australia’s rate of 34.2 cases per 100,000 children was significantly lower than the national rate of 100.9 per 100,000 people. There has not been a whooping cough death in a child in South Australia since 2010.

“These results are likely in part to be delivered by COVID-19 measures, such as physical distancing, staying home when unwell and improved hygiene,” Minister Wade said.

The RoGS report card also revealed the participation rate for breast cancer screening in South Australia continues to remain significantly above the national rate.

In 2018-19, the participation rate for breast cancer screening for women in the target age group (50-74 years) was 58.4 percent, the second highest nationally (Tas 59.8) and 4.1 percentage points higher than the national average.

These continued high participation rates reflect several strategies undertaken by BreastScreen SA:

  • A review of all contact points with clients (including assessing feedback from clients), which has determined the optimal timing and use of email, SMS, letters and follow-up personalised phone calls;
  • Provision of after-hours screening at high demand clinics;
  • Tailored activities and strategic deployment of the mobile screening units in low socio-economic areas and/or areas of low participation in the metropolitan area;
  • Partnerships with SA Health local health networks, Cancer Council SA, Bowel Screening and Cervix Screening.

Also in South Australia in 2018-19, the participation rate for bowel cancer screening in the target age group (50-74 years) was 49.1, the second highest nationally (Tas 49.2), and 5.3 percentage points higher than the national average.

South Australia has consistently had one of the highest participation rates of all states and territories since the commencement of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in 2006.

Strategies implemented by Wellbeing SA to further improve participation in SA include:

  • Adding to the reach and dose of the national Bowel Cancer Prevention media campaign, including local television, radio and newspapers with focus on rural and remote communities in SA;
  • One Stop Screening Shops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provides opportunities for breast and cervical cancer screening as well as bowel screening education on the same day

For 2018-19, the participation rate for cervical cancer screening in South Australia for women in the target age group (25-74 years) was 50.5 percent, the highest nationally and four percentage points higher than the national average.

Some actions undertaken by Wellbeing SA to support screening participation and quality services include:

  • Up-skilling healthcare professionals
  • Strategic partnership and clinic extension grants have supported local action to increase cervical screening awareness and availability in priority populations and regions
  • Promotion of self-collection with women and healthcare professionals has been a recent priority, to ensure under-screened women have access to this new option

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