Children's health at risk

Angered: Nurse Penny Vukovich is angered that Fairfield Council will stop its free immunisation service from July 1. Picture: Luke Fuda

Angered: Nurse Penny Vukovich is angered that Fairfield Council will stop its free immunisation service from July 1. Picture: Luke Fuda

FAIRFIELD Council will permanently cease its free immunisation service for children at the end of June.

The service, offered five times a month at Fairfield, Bonnyrigg and Wetherill Park community centres, provides free immunisation for children aged six months to five years.

This includes the diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio vaccine to children aged four.

A Fairfield Council spokeswoman said the decision to cease the program was influenced by accessibility to general practitioners, "who also carry out the service free of charge".

What do you think of the council's decision? Tell us below.

"When the program was introduced 50 years ago, access to medical care was not as readily available as it is now," the spokeswoman said.

"The program costs approximately $50,000 per year to run with the added cost of staff salaries.

"Savings from the cessation of the service will be redirected back into community projects."

But nurse/immuniser Penny Vukovich said this was not a valid reason.

"Fairfield has one of the lowest rates of immunisation in NSW so I'm really upset that the council has done this because it's a brilliant service," she said.

Data released by the National Health Performance Authority in February shows only 85 per cent of five-year-old children living within the Fairfield area were immunised last year.

In other areas in Sydney, 95 to 99 per cent of children in the same age group had been immunised during that period.

"I can't see how the council can say it's costing them a lot of money because they don't need to pay for the hire of the hall and they don't need to pay for the nurses or vaccines," Mrs Vukovich said.

Paediatrician and opposition spokesman for health Dr Andrew McDonald was appalled at the council's decision.

He said the council's free immunisation service was pivotal and disagreed with comments made about general practitioners carrying out the service free of charge.

"For the council to stop this is wrong and it should not happen," he said. "What they don't realise is how vital the immunisation service is.

"While GPs do it and also community centres, the council service is an absolute back-up for high risk groups such as those who don't have a Medicare card.

"If you don't have a Medicare card, GPs charge — so this is the one service that people without Medicare cards use."

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