Topics: Australia has eliminated rubella, Walk for Autism.
Now to health news. And rubella – formerly known as German measles – has officially been wiped out in Australia. The World Health Organization has declared the disease – once feared by pregnant women – eradicated. For more, I’m joined by Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Minister, good morning to you. This is a very encouraging development. How significant have vaccinations been in achieving this?
Well, good morning. Vaccinations have been absolutely critical in wiping out rubella within Australia. Only two decades ago, in the mid-1990s, from about 1992 to 1995 there was an outbreak which meant that thousands of people had rubella.
We’ve been able to eradicate it through a national vaccination program over many decades. And this is a huge breakthrough because in particular for pregnant mums, rubella can be disastrous leading to still birth, leading to miscarriage, leading to birth defects. So, for mums with beautiful young bubs, it’s such an important breakthrough.
It is indeed. And I’m wondering if this is a step towards eliminating other harmful illnesses in Australia.
Well, absolutely. Vaccinations are fundamental, we’ve recently expanded the whooping cough vaccinations, we’ve extended the reach of the influenza vaccinations. My most recent figures for influenza is it’s down from 1100 lives lost to this point in time to just over 50 lives lost this year.
Still too high, still too high. But the role of vaccinations is absolutely clear, they save lives and they protect lives. And it’s not just your child in the case of the rubella vaccinations, it helps protect the whole population by building what’s called herd immunity or basically building an immunity within the population. So, to have the World Health Organization make this declaration is a critical step forward for Australia and in particular Australian mums.
Yeah, indeed. Well said, Minister. We should point out that the reason you’re not in your school uniform is that you’re actually in the middle of a 500 kilometre walk to increase awareness around autism. What a wonderful cause. How are you going and what’s motivated you to do it?
Well, over the years I’ve met lots of families that have kids with autism. And originally they needed more and more services; it’s since been included on the NDIS, which is a huge breakthrough.
But we have two local programs – Abacus and Light Up Autism – and we’re raising funds for them, visiting schools and communities; all up it will be in the vicinity of 50 schools and 50 communities. And I think today’s day three, about 50 kilometres in and we’ll average about 27 kilometres a day. But above all else, great schools, great parents and these beautiful kids who if they have the support can do amazing things.
So well said. How are your calves?
Calves are a little bit sore and the bottom of the feet is a little bit sore. But we just keep working at it and plenty of ice at the end of the day.
Yeah, good for you. And thank you very much for your time this morning, Greg Hunt. We appreciate it.
Over to you, Karl.
Yeah, he’s doing a good job; Greg Hunt.