WHILE parents in the Clarence Valley are among the state's best at making sure their babies and children are up-to-date with vaccinations, director of North Coast Public Health Paul Corben warns there's still no room for complacency.
"The challenge is still to ensure the community is fully immunised and vaccinated on time in accordance with the recommended schedules to ensure the maximum benefits to protect individuals and the community generally," he said.
Mr Corben warns no community is isolated and many diseases, like polio and measles which have been virtually wiped out in Australia following decades of a concerted effort to promote vaccination, can quickly reappear if carried by unvaccinated travellers.
"The two most recent measles outbreaks in Australia have been brought back to the country and spread around by unvaccinated travellers returning from countries where this disease is still endemic," he said.
However, Mr Corben said the 'pretty good' rates of immunisation in the Clarence Valley reflected community attitudes, but noted some of the state's lowest figures were from neighbouring shires including Byron Bay, Bellingen and Lismore.
He also warned whooping cough was still a life-threatening risk to babies, with two infants dying on the North Coast after contracting the illness in the last couple of years.
"Low vaccination rates in some parts of the north coast fuel that problem," he said.
In an attempt to better inform parents and debunk the many myths surrounding the vexed issue of immunisation, Mr Corben welcomed the release of 'The Science of Immunisation', published by the Australian Academy of Science.
A national panel of experts in the field compiled the booklet, which was funded by the Federal Government, in response to "confusion created by contradictory information" about immunisation.
Based on a series of key questions, the publication aims to increase awareness of the science on which public and personal health policy decisions responses should be based.
Launching the booklet on Monday, AAS president Professor Suzanne Cory urged all parents to use it when making decisions about their children's health.
"The academy is strongly committed to ensuring that every Australian has the opportunity to understand scientific issues and base their decisions on the best available evidence," Prof Cory said.
"That's why we brought together some of the best researchers in the field in Australia to develop a document written as simply as possible, and which is thorough and scientifically rigorous.
The booklet was prepared by a working group overseen by Professor Tony Basten and Professor Ian Frazer, and an oversight committee chaired by Sir Gus Nossal.
The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers is available at science.org.au/immunisation.html.