Australia plans to extend its vaccination requirement for workers and immigrants with contagious diseases to include those foreigners who do not have a certificate showing they have had both sides of the vaccine.
The plan, which was announced in a report by Australia’s Department of Health on Friday, came after an audit found a link between a rise in the rate of illness among foreign workers and a failure to understand the protection offered by their immunizations.
The audit prompted a review of about 2,000 medical certificates, from which officials have verified that all the vaccines were done correctly by the patient and that the immunization could protect her. For the most part, the trouble was due to issues with the certificates’ non-attestation of the contraindications to the treatment, such as receiving anesthesia during the procedure or touching wound areas where the injection had been administered.
“In 2016, the number of cases of medical certificate non-attestation of vaccinated person had increased across the board, with each state having an increase in cases over the previous 12 months,” said Colin Connor, the director general of the Department of Health. “Australia is an open and multicultural country and many of our citizens travel to third countries by plane. As a result of this increase in non-attestation, [the Department of Health] is considering the vaccination requirements.”
In recent years, the country has targeted worker and immigrant health practices, including mandatory vaccinations for certain diseases, medical checks for overseas workers, and scrutiny of international education programs.
In July 2015, Australia switched to an increasingly aggressive policy of implementing work authorizations only after the applicant has had both of the recommended immunizations, which protects against measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis B. The new measure was part of an effort to reduce measles outbreaks.
Later, the Australian government announced that it would allow immigrants who have never received the jab for measles, mumps and rubella to come to the country without need for health authorizations, provided that they obtain the necessary prescription and have it in their possession.
Last year, the government began requiring that foreign workers who have traveled to Australia to take a short influenza vaccination to receive an employment authorization.
Connor said he hopes that the change in requirements will help improve the vaccination rate among foreign workers, who are 15 percent less likely to have had both sides of the measles vaccine than the rest of the population. He said the department is looking at whether children who are not vaccinated or are unvaccinated, both within and outside the country, might warrant additional requirements.
“If someone has been registered and vaccinated in [another country], and it’s incomplete, it’s not viable to be granted an additional immunization document,” he said. “That will be something we’ll consider.
“The end aim is better immunization rates,” he said. “And then the number of those who haven’t been immunized will fall.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.