Australia needs a CDC: Nigel Crawford

Leigh Dayton

writer

Leigh Dayton

Science writer and broadcaster with a PhD in science innovation

Leigh Dayton

Australia lacks a ‘national picture’ of COVID trends.

It’s time to emerge from the ‘bubble of COVID’ and check out what other countries are doing to keep track of vaccination rates and impacts, says paediatrician Associate Professor Nigel Crawford.

“I think one of the big lessons coming out of the UK was they got really organised to measure how well the vaccines were working, and they put that publicly up on websites,” said Crawford, who heads multiple bodies, including Immunisation Services at The Royal Children’s Hospital and the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre.

In Australia, data on the number of COVID cases and how the vaccines were working was made available early on in the pandemic, he said.

“But as time goes on, Australia’s not as well linked-up as other countries in terms of seeing what the true national picture is,” Crawford said.

“The jurisdictions are working hard on their data and capturing it. And there have been some publications come out of different jurisdictions and states in Australia and NSW, which is probably at the forefront of that”.

Associate Professor Nigel Crawford will be presenting a COVID Update at the upcoming Healthed webcast – register here.

Professor Crawford said it was “really important” to collate vaccination data at a jurisdictional level and then publish it centrally.

We should have certain national statistics for the number of vaccines that have been administered, the number of cases that are hospitalised and their vaccination status and how well are the vaccines working, he said.

Australia is the only OECD country without a centralised pandemic response agency, he said.

Crawford supports the current discussion about establishing a national centre for disease control or communicable diseases, similar to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Public Health England.

Crawford says having a national centre collecting and communicating new information accessibly and promptly is vital “in all aspects of care”.

One of the lessons from COVID is that information needs to be digested and communicated clearly to the relevant parties.

“I think GPs being so busy and across so many different areas, we need to make sure that those expert groups are helping to digest the information and making it translatable in a way that’s understandable and can be utilized both for GPs and their patients,” said Crawford.

 

Thank you, Australian GPs!

Much of the credit for the effective COVID vaccine rollout must go to GPs, says Crawford.

GPs are central to communicating the benefits and risks of vaccination to their patients and investigating and monitoring patients who had serious adverse events following vaccination, he said.

All this while doing “great GP work”, he said. For example: “kids turning up with respiratory infections. They’ve got an RSV bronchiolitis, but you’ve got to screen them for COVID and manage all the infection control and can you do it via telehealth or see them in your clinic.”

It’s been a juggle, and now the world is moving to a “new normal”, he said. It’s important to recognise the ongoing presence of COVID and prepare for “whatever comes next”, he said.

More information about vaccines can be found here: https://mvec.mcri.edu.au/

Associate Professor Nigel Crawford will be presenting a COVID Update at the upcoming Healthed webcast – register here.

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Leigh Dayton

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Leigh Dayton

Science writer and broadcaster with a PhD in science innovation

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