Good news on the immunisation front:
There has been an unprecedented increase in the Maori immunisation rates over the past four years.
Immunisation rates for Maori children have improved so much in the past four years that the Maori rates are now equal to or better than the New Zealand European rate in more than half of the country’s district health boards (DHBs).
Two-year-old Maori children have higher immunisation rates than New Zealand European children in Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Lakes, Northland, Tairawhiti, Wairarapa, Waitemata and West Coast DHBs. And equal rates in Canterbury, Hutt Valley, Southern and Taranaki DHBs.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says results for Pacific communities are even better.
“Immunisation rates for Pacific children are equal to or better than the New Zealand European children in 17 DHBs. Even more impressive, in eight of these DHBs every single Pacific child was fully immunised at two years of age,” says Mr Ryall.
End of financial year data from the Ministry of Health shows 90 per cent of Maori children and 95 per cent of Pacific children were fully immunised by their second birthday.
In 2007, only 59 per cent of Maori children and 63 per cent of Pacific children were fully immunised – this equates to a 50 per cent improvement.
“This is a tremendous result and a tribute to the hard work of general practice teams, Well Child providers, community outreach teams, midwives, district health board staff and the national immunisation programme team.
“For the past four years these immunisation teams have taken our country from having one of the lowest immunisation rates in the world to having one of the highest. They have also removed the significant difference in rates between different groups that we had in the past,” says Mr Ryall.
Sic Sci Blogs Helen Petousis Harris writes:
. . . This is bloody amazing and we should feel really proud. Most health care services have equity gaps and we have shown in immunisation that these are not inevitable but can be overcome. . . .
In the mid-90s the NZ government decided to solve the problem and over the next decade or so lots of talking and reports and strategies happened. Coverage slowly started to improve thanks to increased awareness of the problem, a united belief that we can and will fix it, champions of the cause at the national, regional and local levels, and improved reporting so that providers had a better idea of their performance. But the real game changers came when firstly, immunisation coverage was placed on a list of health priorities and then targets were set. Alongside this the institution of the National Immunisation Register in 2005 was the essential tool required to monitor progress and find the children missing out. Immunisation coverage rates have tracked rapidly upward ever since for a whole range of reasons: overall a priority focus at all levels, working together, improving organisational performance, feedback loops and teamwork. Amazing how that motivates people!! In particular real credit must go to general practice where the bulk of the service delivery occurs, and to the unsung heroes – the practice nurses – for all the commitment and hard work!
This needs repeating: But the real game changers came when firstly, immunisation coverage was placed on a list of health priorities and then targets were set.
That’s not rocket science but it’s made a significant improvement.
This is is good not just for those immunised but those who can’t be.
Herd immunity requires most people to be immunised and the higher immunisation rates are the smaller the risk of disease outbreaks.
On a related note, the count-down was on for the eradication of polio internationally but now there’s been an outbreak in Syria:
At least 22 people – most of them babies and toddlers – are now believed to have contracted polio in Syria, the World Health Organization has reported.
If confirmed, it would be the first outbreak of the disease there in 14 years. Syria’s Health Ministry began an immunisation drive on Thursday.
Before Syria’s civil war began in 2011, some 95% of children were vaccinated against the disease.
Now, Unicef estimates 500,000 children have not been immunised. . .
Polio has been largely eradicated in developed countries but remains endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Worldwide, polio cases have fallen from an estimated 350,000 at the start of a WHO-led immunisation campaign in 1988 to just 223 reported cases last year.
There is no known cure, though a series of vaccinations can confer immunity. Young children are particularly susceptible to paralytic polio, the most serious form of the disease.
Rotary International is working to eradicate polio.