Parents decline to immunise

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More than 200 infants in the Top of the South are not fully immunised, causing the region to miss a national health target and part of the “incentive funding” attached to it.

The incentive funding is calculated each quarter and distributed to the region’s general practices through the Nelson Bays Primary Health Organisation.

Up to $79,000 was available between July 2015 and June 2016 for Nelson Bays PHO if each of the five targets were met. The incentive funding is used by the Nelson Bays PHO to provide support and resources to general practices to further enable their immunisation activity.

One of these targets is to immunise 95 per cent of children between eight and 24 months old.

According to the most recent immunisation coverage report by the Ministry of Health, during a three-month period ending on March 31, the Nelson and Marlborough only had 87.6 per cent of its infants fully immunised, the fifth lowest in the country.

It showed that 222 children aged between 6 and 24 months did not receive full immunisation. Full immunisation includes nine injections and three oral vaccines that fight 12 diseases including whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps and rubella.

Nelson Bays PHO general manager of health services, Ward Steet, says it will be hard for Nelson to reach the 95 per cent target as there are a lot of “decliners” in region, those who make an “often philosophical” decision not to immunise their children.

“Our region has a high decliner rate of between 6.4 per cent and 6.9 per cent at any point in time which makes attaining a 95 per cent immunisation compliance rate quite difficult,” he says.

Alliance Support manager Andrew Goodger, says the region is due to miss out on about $9000 due to the failure to reach the immunisation targets.

“The payment is determined by a formula which depends on the population numbers and the percentage immunisation rate achieved each quarter. So if the target is missed by a small amount, the amount received is a small amount less. Likewise, if you miss by a lot, the payment is reduced proportionately.”

Nurses and practice managers at various practices spoken to by Nelson Weekly say some practises are able to achieve 100 per cent compliance but there are “pockets” of areas in Nelson that they struggle with parents opting not to immunise their child.

A nurse, who asked not to be named, says there is a lot of pressure for practices to reach the target and they have lists of families who have not immunised. They try to reach them but are often fobbed off.

“When the parents don’t turn up to immunisations or they keep saying they’re coming or they choose not to or they want more information or they just can’t be reached, they go to an outreach programme and those people hunt them down.

“But because Nelson has pockets of people making choices, and it’s our right to have choices in New Zealand, they’re saying, ‘we don’t want to immunise our children and it’s our right not to, we’ve read the information but we’re a decliner, we don’t want to’.”

A nurse at Greenwood Health Motueka, says the reasons that parents give for not immunising vary.

“Some parents give reasons, some are very dodgy and just say ‘no, no, don’t call me back’, some are fears for vaccination safety and say they just want to research things further, some will vaccinate for maybe the first two events and feel that’s enough protection for their children and they don’t want any more, some say it’s a toxin that’s going to kill their baby or unsettle a happy baby.”

Judy Gilmore, the practice manager at the Stoke Medical Centre, says parents who don’t want immunisations either think they don’t have to, that their child is too young or that they’ve heard bad things and don’t want to risk complications.

Nelson Weekly spoke to five naturopaths within the region who advocate for parents to make “informed decisions about immunising”.

Each said they didn’t want to comment due to the controversy of the subject and were scared of the backlash it would bring on their practices with one saying, “I’m not going to put my neck on the line.”