World Immunisation Week (24 – 30 April) is an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of vaccines in setting us up for a healthy life and further collective action still needed to protect New Zealanders from preventable disease.
Director-General of Health, Dr Diana Sarfati, says vaccines are among the most effective ways we have for protecting ourselves and others against disease. This is particularly important heading into winter, when influenza and other illnesses flourish, and with Covid-19 still very much circulating.
“With the help of vaccines, we haven’t had a wild polio infection in Aotearoa since the 70s and we have turned once common fatal diseases, such as Diphtheria, into rare tragedies.
“However, the reality is that vaccination rates are falling, here and globally, due in part to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This puts us all at risk and makes it even more important we reach our most vulnerable people, particularly our tamariki.”
For World Immunisation Week this year, the World Health Organization is leading a global focus to catch-up on lost progress and reach the millions of children who missed out on vaccines, to restore essential immunisation coverage to at least 2019 levels.
In Aotearoa, since 2017, childhood immunisation rates have fluctuated before trending downwards in 2020. In 2020, the national total for children at 24 months was 91.7%. The most recent data available, in the three months ending 31 December 2022, shows that coverage for all New Zealand children was 82.4%, with Pacific children at 81.9%. Figures for tamariki Māori are well below these rates, at 66.4%.
Māori also continued to have the lowest rate of immunisations at all milestone ages compared to the total population.
Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority Chief Executive, Riana Manuel says the relationships built during the pandemic with Māori, Pacific people and disabled people has put us in a stronger position to address the fall in immunisation rates for other diseases.
“Through COVID-19 we learned that it wasn’t enough to set-up vaccine centres, we needed to build trust with whānau first, often kanohi ki te kanohi,” Ms Manuel says.
“Sometimes this started through local health or iwi provider, sometimes with a cup of tea in someone’s kitchen. This approach will be more important than ever as we work with whānau to protect their tamariki against other serious preventable illnesses.”
Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Chief Executive, Margie Apa says immunising your child is one of the best ways to set them up for a healthy future.
“It protects your tamariki from some serious preventable diseases, reduces the risk of hospitalisation and sometimes fatal illness. Childhood vaccinations are also free for babies, children, adolescents, and free doses are also available for pregnant people,” Apa says.
“We are committed to lifting immunisation rates, and already have a significant body of work underway to address this across the motu. But we know that we can’t do it alone. We need to work together across Aotearoa to protect our communities, our whānau, our tamariki and each other.”
- In New Zealand, children are immunised against 13 preventable diseases, including whooping cough, chickenpox and measles.
- These immunisations are free for babies, children, adolescents, and pregnant people.
- It’s recommended that immunisations are given at specific times throughout your child’s life, between six weeks and four years old, with further immunisations at 11 or 12 and 18 years.
- Children can also get additional vaccinations to protect them against the flu from 6 months old and COVID-19, if they’re over 5 years old. Some children may also need extra immunisations if they have long-term conditions, such as diabetes.
- If your child has missed any immunisations, it’s not too late to catch up.
- To find out if your child is up to date with their immunisations, or to get your child immunised talk to your doctor or practice nurse.
- For more information on immunising your child visit www.immunise.health.nz