Residents in Mitchell Shire are protecting vulnerable community members from illness by achieving herd immunity.

Immunisation rates across the shire have hit 98 per cent for five-year-olds, surpassing the recommended 95 per cent rate from both Victorian and Federal governments..

Mitchell Shire Mayor Bill Chisholm was extremely proud of his community and its efforts to protect those with vulnerable immune systems.

‘‘Our health services in the Mitchell Shire are doing a brilliant job of working with residents to get the best results for everyone who lives in the municipality,’’ he said.

‘‘It is tremendous we have reached herd immunity, it is a brilliant, co-operative effort.

‘‘While we are doing a great job, we need to make sure we continue to vaccinate and keep up-to-date with the latest information. This is the best way we can continue to protect the most vulnerable people in our shire.’’

Herd immunity is vital for those in the community who cannot be immunised against diseases such as measles, whooping cough , rotavirus , meningococcal and the flu.

Babies under six months old, who are yet to have their first round of needles, and the elderly are the most at risk of becoming ill and rely on herd immunity to avoid what can be life-threatening diseases.

People who have damaged or suppressed immune systems are also at risk as they often cannot be immunised.

Australia-wide, immunisation rates for one-year-olds sat at 94 per cent, 90.63 per cent for two-year-olds and 94.62 per cent for five-year-olds as recorded by the Federal Department of Health at the end of 2018.

Victoria fared only slightly better with 94.21 per cent of one-year-olds and 91 per cent of two-year-olds fully vaccinated, meaning the state average was below the recommended rate.

However, 95.48 per cent of five-year-olds were fully immunised, meaning herd immunity had been achieved in Victoria for that age group.

There have been multiple outbreaks of measles in Victoria, the most recent one across the Australia Day long weekend in Mildura with a baby being taken to the Mildura Base Hospital and diagnosed with the disease.

Measles is a highly infectious disease and can be fatal for babies.

Victoria’s acting chief health officer Brett Sutton said measles often first presented with cold-like symptoms.

‘‘The characteristic measles rash usually begins three to seven days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body,’’ he said.

‘‘Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other patients.’’

Measles outbreaks are rare in Australia because of country-wide use of the measles vaccine but recently there has been multiple outbreaks, usually linked to someone who was visiting from overseas or an unvaccinated person returning from an overseas trip.

A Victorian Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson praised the Mitchell Shire community for its efforts.

‘‘Immunisations are safe, effective and save lives. Mitchell Shire has done a wonderful job promoting the importance of vaccination,’’ they said.

‘‘Immunising your child not only protects you and your family, but other children in the community.’’

This article was first published in the Seymour Telegraph on February 6 2019.