Encouraging parents to get their child immunised on time is one of the key messages for National Immunisation Week which kicks off on Saturday.
Immunisation helps protect children against serious diseases that can make them extremely sick, says Immunisation Health Target Champion Dr Pat Tuohy.
From April 23-29, District Health Boards, immunisation providers and supporters will be promoting immunisation in communities throughout New Zealand.
‘We’re also hoping that Immunisation Week provides an opportunity for parents who have questions or concerns about immunisation to talk to their family doctor or health professional about it,” Dr Tuohy says.
Immunisation has proven to be one of the most effective medical breakthroughs in preventing diseases that used to take an enormous toll on communities.
“Just because we don’t see the kind of epidemics our grandparents lived through doesn’t mean these diseases have disappeared. Over the past couple of years more than 200 children and adults have caught measles in outbreaks throughout New Zealand. Some were so sick they had to be hospitalised.”
Immunisation against measles is free and is the best way to prevent the disease, he says.
“Although we’ve made a lot of progress over the past five years, our immunisation rates are still too low to prevent these kinds of outbreaks. Right now about 88 percent of our two-year-olds are fully immunised but we really need to get to 95 percent to protect our children and our communities from diseases like measles.”
New Zealand’s Immunisation Week ties in with the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region’s vaccination week.
Raising immunisation rates to 95 percent in under-two-year-olds by 2012 is one of the Government’s Health Targets. Finding ways to achieve that was the subject of a recent parliamentary select committee inquiry. The committee reported back last month.
New Zealand children are eligible for free immunisations that protect against 10 diseases. Teenage girls are also offered immunisation against human papillomavirus.
For media inquiries please contact Michelle Quirke, Immunisation team, Ministry of Health (04) 816 4399 or 021 806 021.
Ministry of Health
021 806 021