When disease outbreaks occur, containing the spread of disease is a key part of keeping the entire community safe.
This means that efforts must be directed at high-risk groups to help limit the spread of disease.
The following two immunisation initiatives help keep Victorians safe from infectious disease.
Time to Immunise program
In late 2017, there was an outbreak of hepatitis A in late 2017 among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). This mirrored similar outbreaks across Europe, the United States and other parts of Australia.
In response, the Victorian Government funded a free hepatitis A vaccine program for these high-risk groups – the Time to Immunise program (Department of Health and Human Services 2018b).
In partnership with the Victorian Aids Council (now Thorne Harbour Health), gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men were also encouraged to take advantage of another free vaccination program against meningococcal disease, hepatitis B and human papillomavirus program (HPV) (Department of Health and Human Services 2017 and 2018b).
The promotional campaign included social media advertising, posters, radio and activities at key LGBTIQ+ events – such as the Midsumma Festival.
These vaccines help prevent serious infections.
Hepatitis A and B can lead to liver disease and liver cancer (Department of Health and Human Services 2018b).
Meningococcal C can lead to septicaemia (infection in the blood) and meningitis (inflammation of the membrane covering the brain) Department of Health and Human Services 2017.
Some types of HPV can lead to genital warts, while other types of HPV can lead to certain cancers of the genital area, mouth and throat in men.
In total, funding of $2.9 million was provided for these four free vaccine programs, which distributed more than 77,000 free vaccines in Victoria.
Linked to the same outbreak of hepatitis A noted above, free vaccines against hepatitis A were funded for people who inject drugs, homeless rough sleepers and adult prisoners. People who inject drugs were also offered free hepatitis B vaccine Department of Health and Human Services 2018a).
Refugee, asylum seeker immunisation program
Refugees and asylum seekers in Victoria are a significant group who may not be appropriately vaccinated (Victorian Refugee Health Network, 2017).
In recognition of the difficulties many refugees and asylum seekers experience in accessing medical care, the 2016–17 State Budget provided an additional $10.9 million over four years to support the increasing number of refugees settling in Victoria (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).
This funding focused on several health initiatives, including immunisation.
Of this funding, more than $23 2 million was set aside to help refugees and asylum seekers in Victoria complete vaccine schedules according to Australian recommendations (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016)..
Find out more
The department has information on meningococcal disease , hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Refugee and asylum seeker health and wellbeing
Department of Health and Human Services 2016, 2016-17 State Budget: Refugee and asyum seeker health and wellbeing in Victoria, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Department of Health and Human Services 2017, Health alert: Vaccination campaign to combat meningococcal disease in gay men, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Department of Health and Human Services 2018a, Chief Health Officer alert: Hepatitis A outbreak, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Department of Health and Human Services 2018b, Better Health Channel: Time to Immunise Program, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Victorian Refugee Health Network, 2017, Catch-up vaccinations for refugees and asylum seekers in Victoria, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Reviewed 10 March 2023