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Vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal infection could be higher among people with obstructive airways disease if guidelines were being followed, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The most common obstructive airways diseases are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

'People with obstructive airways disease are at a higher risk of invasive pneumococcal disease, 'said AIHW spokesperson Professor Guy Marks.

While those with obstructive airways disease are no more likely than others to experience influenza infection, they are more likely to have complications following influenza infection.

'Therefore medical guidelines in Australia recommend influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations for people with obstructive airways disease.'

The report, Vaccination uptake among people with chronic respiratory disease, shows that uptake of these vaccinations, while better in people with asthma or COPD than in those without these conditions, is not at the recommended 100% level, as recommended in the guidelines.

'The limited data we have available on this topic show that the best vaccination coverage among people with asthma or COPD is for those aged 65 or older, with coverage in the 60-80% range,' Professor Marks said.

This is compared with a 40-70% range for those without asthma or COPD in this age group.

'For other age groups, the proportions are much lower.'

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, uptake of both influenza and pneumococcal vaccination was more common among those with asthma than those without asthma. For those Indigenous people with COPD, uptake of pneumococcal vaccination-but not influenza vaccination-was higher than those without COPD.

The report presents a range of data improvement options that would enhance the ability to monitor vaccination uptake in these and other at-risk population groups.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 19 December 2012

Further information: Professor Guy Marks, ACAM, tel. (02) 9114 0466, mob. 0419 251 565

Full publications: Vaccination uptake among people with chronic respiratory disease