Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew is marking the start of Immunisation Week by promoting the upcoming introduction of free rotavirus vaccination.
Immunisation Week (28 April to 2 May) is celebrated worldwide, and is coordinated by the World Health Organization. The theme of this year’s Immunisation Week is on time, every time.
“Babies being born during April will be among the first who are eligible for the free rotavirus vaccine, which starts on 1 July,” says Mrs Goodhew.
Rotavirus vaccine will be given alongside the existing childhood vaccinations at six weeks, three months and five months.
“Usually with those vaccines, if you’re late you can catch up. But for rotavirus, babies must have the first of three doses before they are 15 weeks old. If they’re too late, then babies will miss out,” says Mrs Goodhew.
Mrs Goodhew is encouraging parents to enrol their babies at a GP practice as soon as they are born, to make sure they get their early immunisations on time.
“Almost every young child will catch rotavirus at some point before they are three years old, unless they’re immunised. Most recover in a few days without any treatment, but hundreds of babies and young children each year are admitted to hospital with complications such as dehydration. This is very distressing for their families.”
The vaccine is part of Australia’s immunisation programme, where it has resulted in a 70 percent decrease in hospitalisation for rotavirus. In New Zealand, this would mean 266 fewer children would be hospitalised each year.
For Immunisation Week, DHBs nationwide are organising clinics, community events and displays to promote the benefits of immunisation.
Media contact: Angela Kenealy 021 220 0129