Compulsory vaccination for tuberculosis and polio has seen these two diseases almost disappear in Australia. A small minority of people regard compulsory vaccination as an infringement of their freedom, but the vast majority see collective good outweighing individual objections.

A world-wide influenza epidemic just after the First World War saw millions of people die. Australia’s quarantine stations, at all our major ports, were full to overflowing. A continent dependent on shipping for both goods and migrants feared imported disease, especially cholera and smallpox. The Australian Government set up a Health Department in 1921 and its serum laboratories, CSL, developed vaccines, especially for polio. Almost all children in Queensland received the oral vaccine in 1967, with thousands travelling from the country to the City Hall in Brisbane.

Queensland has a proud tradition of public health, being the first state in Australia to establish free hospital care in 1945. Most vaccinations for babies still take place at Baby Health Centres, at hospitals or at school. Free vaccination is available for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, and polio.

The biggest health crisis of recent years, the HIV/AIDS virus, still awaits a vaccine. A vast public campaign about the importance of safe sex saw the spread of the virus curtailed, and a sharp reduction in the mortality rate.

Caption

Medical Immunisation April 1949, Wendy Melloy faces up bravely while the next in line is curious, This youngster looks sceptical as the doctor from the health department injects Diphtheria serum into his arm, 1949, Brisbane Telegraph, Photographer unknown, John Oxley Library, SLQ, Negative no. 205265