Vaccinations in NZ

Grant Jacobs at Sci Blogs blogs:

The Ministry of Health has released it’s 2013 Health Report.[1] As you would expect overall we’re a nation of vaccinators. Looked at more closely, though, we could do better.

The report, done in partnership with The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand and Pfizer New Zealand[2] surveyed 1500 people, most of who were parents. Here are some of the results:

  • Overall, 87% fully vaccinated their children.

  • 96% at least partly vaccinated their children. (“4% of parents surveyed told us they do not immunise their children at all.”)

  • 78% vaccinated their children on time. (Furthermore, “Of those parents who do fully vaccinate their children, 19% do not adhere, or were unsure they adhered, to the age appropriate schedule and this rises to 50% among parents who only partially vaccinate.”)

  • Younger parents were slightly less likely to fully vaccinate their children. 80% of parents aged 18 to 24 fully vaccinated their children compared to 89% of older parents, aged 25 to 44.

  • 90% of those surveyed believed vaccines are safe.

On a minor note, the report was done by Pfizer and The Meningitis Foundation, not the Ministry of Health. Curia did much of the research for the report.

The Ministry of Health has set targets for vaccination of under 8-month olds. They aim to have 85% of these children vaccinated by July 2013, 90% by July 2014 and 95% by December 2014. (This will tie in with levels needed for effective herd immunity.)

I’m not sure I heard correctly but I think Tony Ryall at the report launch said that in the last few years the vaccination rate has increased from 68% to 93% for very young infants.

Jacobs quotes another report on parents who delay immunisations:

  • The Compromised – support immunisation but face significant individual, family/whānau and/or environmental barriers to immunising their infant(s) on time.
  • The Considered – support immunisation but are concerned with the timeliness of the schedule. They therefore immunise at times that they feel are more appropriate for their child.
  • The Conflicted – have concerns about immunisation and immunise their infants when they feel there is a heightened risk of disease, or through a sense of pressure from their partner, family/whānau and/or health provider.

The full report is here.

The impact of meningococcal and pneumococcal meningitis is very nasty. It can vary from death to brain damage to limb amputation. They are preventable diseases.

Opinions on a couple of policy issues around vaccinations were canvassed:

We asked whether families should lose some of their family tax benefit (as part of Working for Families) if they do not have their children immunised. Opinion was divided – 49% of respondents did not agree with financial penalties; 40% were in favour, and 11% did not know.

We also asked whether children who have not been vaccinated should be accepted into early childhood centres such as day care. Opinion was again divided. While 45% of respondents would not exclude non-vaccinated children, 42% were in favour of exclusion, and a further 13% were unable to answer or did not respond.

The exclusion issue is a difficult one. You don’t want to exclude anyone from ECE, but an unvaccinated child can be a health risk to the other kids.

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