The number of parents who deliberately choose not to immunise their children is steadily dropping.
Around 6 per cent of parents three years ago chose not to immunise, but the rate today is now less than 4 per cent.
This has helped immunisation rates for two-year olds reach 91 per cent, well on the way to achieving the government’s health target of 95 per cent of two-year-olds fully immunised by July 2012.
Some parents who were previously undecided or who had thought that their children were at low risk from these diseases have immunised their children because of the recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough.
The Ministry’s National Programme Manager for Immunisation, David Wansbrough says, “Unfortunately, we are still getting outbreaks of these preventable diseases and that has reminded people how serious these diseases can be.”
“These are two of the most infectious diseases, they spread much more easily than influenza.”
This year, more than 90 people have needed hospital treatment for measles. In the case of whooping cough, 73 babies under 12 months old needed hospital care.
Hamilton mother and kindergarten teacher Ally Edwards-Lasenby had immunised her son Cameron – but decided to decline the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, because at the time there was since-discredited research claiming a link with autism.
Earlier this year Cameron, who is now 13, became seriously ill with measles, needed hospital treatment, and required oxygen there to help him breathe.
The disease has had a serious impact on Cameron’s immune system and Mrs Edwards-Lasenby says it could be another six months before he fully recovers from the disease.
“If you make a decision like I did, it is really important that you go back later and revisit it, because in this case the doctor behind the research had been struck off.”
Higher immunisation coverage aims to prevent measles outbreaks in future and prevent babies under under 12 months old from getting whooping cough.
Research commissioned by the Ministry of Health shows there are many reasons why parents do not immunise, most of them are not opposed to immunisation but circumstances get in the way http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/immunisation-audience-research.
The vast majority of parents support immunisation, some parents choose not to, and some have a genuine medical reason for not immunising. There are also parents who haven’t made a decision, haven’t got around to it, or don’t think that immunisation is necessary to children in New Zealand today.
“District health boards and health professionals have been working hard to reach these different groups, so this result is encouraging for all immunisation providers, particularly nurses who take the time to talk to parents about diseases and immunisation,” said David Wansbrough.
For further information:
Ally Edwards-Lasenby is available to speak and can be contacted through senior media advisor Kevin McCarthy, 04 496 2115, 021 832 459.
David Wansbrough, National Programme Manager Immunisation, Ministry of Health, 04 816 2284.