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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

Guest Editorial: Immunisation: A Public Health success Volume 14 Issue 1-2

Margaret Burgess

New South Wales Public Health Bulletin 14(2) 1 - 5 Published: 01 February 2003

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Margaret Burgess


Since the introduction of childhood vaccination for diphtheria in 1932—and the widespread use of vaccines to prevent tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and poliomyelitis in the 1950s, and measles, mumps and rubella in the 1960s—deaths in Australia from these vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) have declined by more than 99 per cent, despite the Australian population increasing 2.8-fold. This striking reduction in deaths, and in the incidence of these diseases, has been closely associated with the introduction of specific vaccination programs (Table 1, Figure 1). In fact, over this time vaccinations for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus have saved a total of at least 70 000 Australian lives and prevented untold morbidity. Poliomyelitis and measles vaccinations have prevented a further 8000 deaths.