Fearful parents reject immunisation jabs

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Vaccination rates drop with age, research before the Whanganui District Health Board showed.

By James Baker

Some Whanganui youngsters are not getting vaccinated because parents fear the jabs pose a risk to their children.

Whanganui District Health Board's Combined Statutory Advisory Committee heard the region was not meeting the government immunisation target of 95 per cent for 8-month-old infants due to parents and guardians declining the service.

"We haven't met the target, but we know why, and that is because a lot of women and elderlies are refusing immunisation [for children]," said Jon Buchan, portfolio manager for Maternal, Child and Youth Health.

The vaccinations are for whooping cough, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella.

Health figures show from October until last December 7.4 per cent of enrolled Whanganui children, or 15 children, did not receive immunisation.

Thirteen of those children did not receive the treatment because their guardian refused the service.

The number rises as the child ages. Only 87.2 per cent of 5-year-olds received the jab.

"Our immunisation outreach services and general practices have spoken to each of these families and explained the risks and reasons why we immunise. Despite that information they have still declined, as is their right," said Buchan.

Nurse Nicola Metcalfe is heavily involved in the Regional Health Network's immunisation outreach service.

She claims misinformation on platforms like social media leads many parents to believe the risks of immunisation outweigh its benefits.

"We find that people will Google vaccinations and there's lots of anti-vaccination information that comes first," Metcalfe said.

One of the myths that surround the vaccine relates to the claim that those who are vaccinated run the risk of developing autism.

"That has been disproven many, many times. They did another big study in 2010 to see if there was a link, and there just isn't any."

Maori and Pacific Island children were less likely to receive immunisation when compared to Pakeha.

Committee member Susan Osborne queried whether a cultural barrier could be preventing some mothers from heeding the advice of medical practitioners.

"Sometimes it's who poses the questions and asks the questions," Osborne said.

While nurses receive workshops in effective communication with a cultural focus, Osborne queried whether it should be Maori medical staff offering immunisation advice to Maori patients.

The vaccine is free for those under 18. For more information on the jabs, visit immune.org.nz.

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