Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand welcomes today’s release of a new report containing wide-ranging recommendations on the future of immunisations in Aotearoa.
The independent Immunisation Taskforce’s report: Initial Priorities for the National Immunisation Programme in Aotearoa, released today, makes 54 recommendations covering funding, delivery, technology, communications, and governance across the programme.
The Taskforce was commissioned by Te Whatu Ora to provide advice to the organisation and to Te Aka Whai Ora – Māori Health Authority on actions to rapidly improve immunisation rates for tamariki and achieve equity across all population groups.
Work is underway to implement the recommendations, including in partnership with Te Aka Whai Ora. Dr Nick Chamberlain, Director of the National Public Health Service, Te Whatu Ora, said all the Taskforce’s recommendations had been accepted, with 26 already being actioned.
“We thank the Immunisation Taskforce for their care and diligence in preparing the report, which outlines important actions that are needed to help improve childhood immunisation rates. We welcome their recommendations, which are the very highest priority for the Te Whatu Ora Board.
“As the report acknowledges, there is a real and urgent need to continue to lift child vaccination rates and build a more equitable immunisation system, particularly for tamariki Māori who are most at risk, and that we need to do better in this regard.
“That’s why we are committed to delivering on the Taskforce’s priorities and will be continuing to work closely with our counterparts at Te Aka Whai Ora and with our providers and communities across the motu to make sure this happens,” Dr Chamberlain said.
“The report underscores that immunisation is of critical importance for a healthy Aotearoa, as it protects people from a range of preventable diseases that can cause serious illness and death. This is at the very heart of why we all need to play our part to get as many of our tamariki and whānau immunised and make sure we all keep up to date with our vaccinations.”
Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, Te Aka Whai Ora Chief Medical Officer, was a member of the Taskforce.
“Immunisation is a focus area for Te Aka Whai Ora,” Dr McKree Jansen says. “The Taskforce report provides a detailed roadmap of the actions needed to ensure whānau have more equitable access to the benefits of immunisation and we are working closely with Te Whatu Ora to build on its findings and recommendations.
“A top priority is the urgent expansion the vaccinator workforce so it is diverse and reflects the communities it serves. During Covid-19 our Māori providers led the way in immunisation outreach – they were extremely successful, vaccinating many whānau in marae, schools, drive-through centres, and in remote communities.
“We need to take the learnings of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and apply them – by training kaimahi to deliver other important immunisations especially for tamariki.”
The Taskforce has taken a detailed look at all aspects of the childhood immunisation system. Its report contains a wide-ranging set of recommendations, including expanding the vaccinator workforce, prioritising outreach services, improving immunisation recording systems, and creating new governance structures to oversee the delivery of immunisations in Aotearoa.
The recommendations also incorporate lessons learned from the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, such as funding Māori and Pacific providers to deliver immunisations directly to their communities. Some of the recommended actions already underway include:
- The development of the Aotearoa Immunisation System (AIR) to replace the National Immunisation Register (NIR), which is on track to complete a migration and cutover to AIR in September 2023.
- The development of a website that whānau can access for information on what immunisations tamariki are eligible for, when the immunisations are due, and what they protect against.
- A temporary uplift to the immunisation administration fee for the delivery of MMR and other childhood immunisations. The temporary uplift applies from 20 February 2023 to 30 June 2023.
- National implementation of a new Immunisation Prioritisation Matrix to assist delivery of outreach immunisation services to priority populations.
- Support for Well Child Tamariki Ora (WCTO) providers to offer immunisations. All WCTO providers now have established referral pathways or are delivering immunisation services to tamariki. This removes the clinical setting and access barriers for whānau, with trusted faces to offer immunisation in familiar places.
- Expanding and diversifying the vaccinator workforce through the Vaccinating Health Worker (VHW) role, which was developed during the COVID-19 response. This role enables non-clinical health workers to administer vaccines under direct clinical supervision, thereby reducing the extensive requirements currently in place to become an authorised vaccinator. Of this workforce, 41 percent are Māori.
- A national measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) communications campaign.
Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora will work in partnership to ensure there is effective stewardship and management of the programme with a priority focus on Māori and Pacific children. Work is ongoing to utilise our partnership to implement all the report’s recommendations.
The report is available here.
Note Dr Nick Chamberlain (Te Whatu Ora), Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen (Te Aka Whai Ora) and Dr Owen Sinclair (Immunisation Taskforce) are available for media interviews on request.
For Dr Chamberlain/Te Whatu Ora, please contact: Ross Henderson, Ph 021 562 720.
For Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen/Te Aka Whai Ora, contact: Rachel Lorimer, Ph 021 436 503.
Dr Owen Sinclair/Immunisation Taskforce, Ph 021 242 3001.