The government had little to say in response to awkward questions from GPs about the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) at a conference in Adelaide this month.
“How is the AIR going to support us in transferring this data to you?” one GP asked Hope Peisley, the director of the Immunisation Policy Section at the federal Department of Health.
“It is not compulsory and, for most GPs, it’s time consuming and sometimes we don’t want to transfer because there is no funding for us,” the GP said.
GP clinics currently receive $6 every time they notify the AIR that they have vaccinated a child up to the age of seven, and an additional $6 to report catch-up vaccinations for children who are more than two months overdue.
But there are no incentive payments for sending information about adult vaccinations to the AIR, which has been in operation since September last year.
“I guess it’s a good point,” Ms Peisley said, speaking at the Adult Immunisation Forum. “It’s best practice. The hope is that people will realise the value … to their patient.”
The government has released data on childhood vaccination coverage, with data from March this year showing that 94.2% of children aged five years were fully vaccinated.
But there is no timeline for releasing information on adult vaccinations, including shingles vaccine Zostavax, which was recently added to the NIP for older Australians.
“Do you know, is there a planned date for when you might start releasing coverage data [for adults]?” Dr Rob Menzies, a UNSW researcher who specialises in vaccine preventable disease epidemiology, asked Ms Peisley.
“The hope is to be able to look at that,” Ms Peisley replied.
“I’d hate to get it wrong. But we do need to start to look at that.”
Ms Peisley said the data captured in the register in relation to Zostavax was lower than the number of vaccines distributed.
“Currently, many adult vaccination encounters are not reported to the AIR,” she said.
The Medical Republic asked the federal Department of Health what proportion of vaccination providers were sending data on adult vaccinations to the register.
The federal Department of Health did not provide any figures, but it did confirm that the data on adult vaccination held was “incomplete”.
“As providers become more familiar with the use of the AIR, numbers of vaccination encounter for adults are anticipated to increase,” a spokesperson said.
“The Department of Health and the Department of Human Services are working with immunisation providers and practice management software companies to encourage the recording of adult vaccinations on the AIR.”