Associate director of nursing with the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service, Jill Clendon. Photo: Kate Russell.

Immunisation rates raise fears of outbreak

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More Nelson parents are choosing not to immunise their children, concerning the local health board which says the trend increases the risk of a disease outbreak.

NMDHB monthly results ending April show that 15.3 per cent of parents in Nelson Marlborough either declined or opted out of the immunisations due at 8 months and 13.5 per cent for those due at 24 months.

“The numbers of parents who decline children’s vaccinations has increased in Nelson,” says associate director of nursing with the Nelson Marlborough Public Health Service, Jill Clendon.

“Too many parents choose to delay immunisation or not to have their children immunised at all.”

She says, if rates are not high enough then outbreak of disease will happen, as we are seeing in New Zealand with measles and whooping cough.

Infant immunisations are offered at six weeks, three months, five months and 15 months. The Government sets milestone targets at 8-months and 24-months.

Nationally, for the first quarter of 2019, for the 24-month target Nelson Marlborough was in the bottom quarter with 8.8 percent of parents declining or opting out. The region is also sitting at a rate of 8 per cent for declines/opt outs for the 8-month target – the sixth lowest out of 20 districts.

Jill says those declining immunisations come from two main groups – those who follow the anti-vaccination lobby and those who delay immunisation due low levels of health literacy.

She says children of parents in latter group will usually catch up with their vaccinations by the time they are five.

Jill says while the majority are immunised on time, they are working hard to offer as much information as possible to encourage those who are not.

“Encouraging families to read and understand information from reliable, scientific sources is the most effective way we can try and debunk the myths around immunisation.”

Under law, vaccine-preventable disease such as mumps, measles or whooping cough are notified to a Medical Officer of Health, who may write to a child’s childcare centre or school, or an adult’s workplace, to advise about the risk of disease outbreak and encourage immunisation.

“Healthcare professionals work hard to support whanau to immunise on time, and to have conversations with parents about why immunisation is more than just a personal choice – it’s a community responsibility,” Jill says.