Indigenous and refugee programs win immunisation boost

GSK’s 2014 Immunisation Grants have been awarded to programs that are helping improve access and awareness of vaccination services for Indigenous and refugee communities.

Winners are from across Australia and include medical groups in Mildura, Townsville, Geraldton and Brisbane. They each receive $20,000 for their program. 

Dr Neil Hearnden, a GP vaccination specialist and chair of the GSK grants independent judging panel, says this year’s winners demonstrated an outstanding ability to connect with hard to reach communities. 

“The judging panel identified strong collaborative elements – which are evidenced by health care professionals teaming up with a school or community group to shore up delivery,” said Dr Neil Hearnden. 

“Doctors and nurses have submitted strong applications based on a specific need in their community and a clear direction on how they will roll it out” 

“We hope these grants make a real difference to immunisation uptake in their local areas,” he said. 

Brisbane’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS), based at the Murri School, will use the grant to catch up school children (about half) who have fallen behind on their recommended immunisation schedule. 

The Goldfields-Midwest Medicare Local will raise awareness of the National Immunisation Program among local Indigenous people and visit 13 local towns in Western Australia to promote the importance of fully immunising children and adult immunity. 

The Townsville Mackay Medicare Local is planning to enlist the support of Indigenous elders to promote immunisation. 

Mildura’s Tristar Medical Group will use its grant to fund a hepatitis B program for local refugees. 

The Mildura clinic works alongside the Sunraysia Ethnic Communities Council, which is responsible for resettling refugees in the area. 

Dr Mehdi Sanati Pour, a general practitioner in Mildura, identified a high incidence of hepatitis B during health checks at his weekly refugee clinic and more than 85% of people not having any protective immunity to the disease. 

“I applied for the GSK grant to assist us to offer the hepatitis B vaccine through our clinic, as it’s not included in Victoria’s refugee immunisation program,” said Dr Sanati Pour. 

“We have three GPs who are experienced in refugee health issues which makes it easier to connect with the patients. The GSK grant helps us to continue to improve our service and help people stay well while resettling into a new country,” says Dr Sanati Pour. 

The GSK Immunisation Grants is one of Australia’s longest standing programs encouraging innovation and sharing best practice for immunisation providers. 

Dr Mark Amies, GSK Vaccines Medical Director, said the panel was very pleased with 71 applications from across Australia. 

“These grants are about enabling local solutions to local problems and we’ve seen some fantastic initiatives over the last nine years of the program.” said Dr Amies. 

“We’re proud to be able to make those possible and continue to support public health care.” 

For more information about the winners visit www.immunisationgrants.gsk.com.au 

Media contact: 
Katrina Walter, Currie Communications, 0402 703 708 

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