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Tairawhiti’s Biggest Immunisation Project Launched

Tairawhiti’s Biggest Immunisation Project Launched – Maori a Focus

Maori are encouraged to take action to halt the Meningococcal B epidemic as Tairawhiti’s largest ever youth health project is launched today.

The local month-long countdown to vaccination kicked off at Kaiti Kids in Kaiti Memorial Park and the Wainui Lions Beach Dig at Midway Beach with the first ever performance of a local song about the campaign.

The song was written and performed by Gisborne District Council’s Sun Fun Company. The talented foursome earlier recorded the track for awareness raising and radio advertising purposes. Tairawhiti District Health Maori Health Manager Maaka Tibble said it was particularly important Maori stay aware of the campaign.

“New Zealand has the highest rate of group B Meningococcal disease in the developed world and worryingly the disease is hitting Maori hard.”

“Rates in Maori are almost three times higher than in rates for European populations. Our taonga – tamariki and rangatahi Maori are at particular risk as they are dying or being left with serious disabilities as a result of Meningococcal disease.“

Mr Tibble said the Meningococcal B vaccination will be available for pre-schoolers in this district from Valentines Day Monday 14 February. He said it is about protecting whanau.

“We urge you to ensure your tamariki and rangatahi are vaccinated to reduce the burden this disease is having on Maori babies, children and young people.”

In 2003, 171 Maori contracted Meningococcal disease throughout New Zealand. Many more suffered a permanent disability such as loss of limbs, brain damage, skin damage, or behavioural or learning difficulties. Mr Tibble said to be successful in bringing the epidemic under control and protecting those most at risk from Meningococcal B, there will need to be high immunisation coverage, especially among Maori communities.

“So many families have seen the severity of Meningococcal disease with their own eyes. Within one month we will have the weapon to fight the epidemic and I am sure we will all work together to protect our young people from the terrible effects of Meningococcal B.”

The free and safe vaccination will be available for Tairawhiti’s 3500 pre-school children at GP practices from Valentines Day Monday 14 February 2005.

Meningococcal B immunisations will be available for school-age children from 4 April 2005. School leavers aged up to 19 years are eligible for the free vaccination.

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