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Immunisation Effective Means of Preventing Disease

12 January 2000

Immunisation Effective Means of Preventing Disease

AS an immunisation initiative takes effect in schools this month, the Ministry of Health is reminding parents that immunisation is one of the most effective means of stopping vaccine-preventable disease.

From now on parents enrolling new entrants in schools will be asked about what vaccines their child has received and also asked to present an immunisation certificate, which for the past five years has only been applicable in early childhood centres.

Immunisation in New Zealand is free and can protect against measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, tetanus, haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and Hepatitis B.

Ministry of Health Policy Director Judy Glackin said, "If a child in a primary school or early childhood centre develops a vaccine-preventable disease, then all other children who are not protected are at risk."

"The immunisation register is simply a tool which enables Medical Officers of Health, in the event of a outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease, to rapidly identify those susceptible and take the appropriate action to control its spread."

"Parents remain free to choose whether or not they wish to immunise their child."

"The register is not a tool to put pressure on the small number of parents who choose not to immunise, but it does encourage parents to complete their children's immunisations."

The aim of the immunisation initiative is to ensure that more children receive the benefits of full immunisation. A 1996 survey in Northland and Auckland found that 95 percent of children received their first immunisation, but less than 63 percent were fully immunised by the age of two.

Ms Glackin said there is no extra funding available to schools for maintaining the register, however it is anticipated that the extra burden on the education sector will be minimal as the information need only be collected at the time of enrolment.

"The small extra requirement for schools is a worthwhile investment to safeguard the health of children."

Ms Glackin added that, schools were not required to follow-up on cases where certificates were not shown or immunisations not completed.

"There are no sanctions or penalties for schools or parents who do not comply with the regulations, however it is in the interests of the schools and parents to comply and keep the school free from vaccine-preventable epidemics."

People wanting further information about immunisation should contact their GP, practise nurse, midwife or Well Child nurse or alternatively call the Auckland University Immunisation Advisory Centre on 0800 466 863.

END

For more information contact: Selina Gentry, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2483 or 025 277 5411 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html Information about immunisation can also be found at http://www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation.html

Auckland University Immunisation Advisory Centre Director Nikki Turner 09 3737006 021 790 693

Medical Officer of Health Wellington Dr Jane O'Hallahan 04 570 9138

Ministry of Education Senior Advisor Margaret Hobbs 04 471 6154

Pipitea Early Childcare Centre Dee Sutton 04 4732336


Questions and Answers on Immunisation Certificates

What is the Immunisation Certificate? The Immunisation Certificate documents the informed choice parent have to make about immunising their children. It lists what vaccines the child has received.

The Immunisation Certificate:

reminds and encourages parents to complete their children's early childhood immunisations

provides an opportunity for health professionals to assist children to complete the early childhood immunisations helps control outbreaks in schools/early childhood centres by identifying children who are not protected and can be a source for further spread of the outbreak unless immunised or excluded.

Will parents need to keep a record of immunisations? Yes. The Well Child - Tamariki Ora Health Book was written for that purpose. This book has been revised and now includes the Immunisation Certificate. Parents are strongly encouraged to use their child's health book to record all the immunisations.

A record of previous immunisations will be needed for the vaccinator who, after giving the child the age 15 months immunisation, will complete the Immunisation Certificate.

Does this mean every child has to be immunised? No, parents make an informed choice, and remain free to opt out of immunisation.

Where do parents get an immunisation certificate? The child's Immunisation Certificate will be completed and signed by the vaccinator who gives a child the age 15 months immunisation. If parents choose not to immunise their child, the Immunisation Certificate can be signed by the vaccinator at any time. The Immunisation Certificate can be obtained from: your doctor (general practitioner), nurse or other vaccinator public health nurse of your nearest public health service.

If immunisations are given by a number of different doctors or health care workers, then parents/ caregivers should make sure that they are recorded in the child's record book. This will enable completion of the certificate when the child's early childhood immunisations are complete.

The Health (Immunisation) Regulations 1995

The Health (Immunisation) Regulations 1995 were introduced after consultation with the education sector, including the School Trustees Association.

The requirement on primary schools (and early childhood centres) is to keep an immunisation register to record the information about the immunisation status of every child born from January 1995. All that is required is to ask to see the child's Immunisation Certificate, and to tick the appropriate box on the register.

Further Information about Immunisation The National Health Committee released a report in December 1999 on immunisation. The Ministry of Health generally supports the recommendations and is working with the Health Funding Authority, HFA, towards implementing them.

A number of the recommendations have already been put in place by the HFA, such as the appointment of a person with responsibility for the immunisation programme and the agreement of immunisation coverage targets.

The overall goal is to achieve 95 per cent immunisation coverage for all regions and all population groups. The time frame to achieve the target will vary depending on the baseline coverage levels which will be known by December 2000.

Key milestones anticipated towards achieving 95 percent coverage in line with the NHC recommendations are that by June 2003 all population groups will have 90 percent or higher coverage for individual vaccines, and by June 2004, 90 per cent or more of children aged two years will be fully immunised in all population groups.

The HFA is currently developing a plan that outlines how it will achieve these targets.

ENDS


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