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Wes'n Bay Maori Infants Safer Than Ak Counterparts

August 10, 2005

Western Bay Maori Infants Safer Against Deadly Disease Than Auckland Counterparts

While the number of Maori infants immunised against meningococcal B remains low around most of the country, the Western Bay of Plenty is streaking ahead.

More than 63%* of Western Bay Maori children under the age of five have been immunised with MeNZB, compared with 39% in Auckland.

Earlier this week the Auckland District Health Board announced it was worried about the 'stubbornly low' percentage of Maori infants immunised against the deadly meningococcal B strain. Extra nurses and an additional community worker were being employed to try and increase the vaccination rate.

In the Western Bay the Maori MeNZB immunisation campaign is being run jointly between Ngaiterangi and Ngati Ranginui iwi.

Project manager Kim Skinner, of Ngati Ranginui, says the higher immunisation rate in the Western Bay is due to good communication with Maori families.

"We have run our campaign quite differently from other parts of the country and it's paying off.

"Our aim was to personally reach as many families as possible, giving them all the information and resources they needed to make up their own minds about whether to immunise their kids."

Ngaiterangi and Ngati Ranginui have made up their own resource packs, which they use alongside the appropriate national resources.

"We wanted to provide our people with information that was specifically relevant to them as well as the nationally distributed brochures.

"Because there was information available written in dialect from the Western Bay we found people started feeling like this was their own programme - their chance to save their kids from this terrible disease."

The iwi also used well-respected local Maori people to get the message out.

"We had two well known women visited all of the kohunga reo in our area three times, ensuring whanau had ample opportunity to ask plenty of questions and voice any possible concerns about the MeNZB immunisation.

"Because they are older, well-respected women and they approached parents at a time that suited them, we've had a successful campaign so far."

"Yes, this did require time, money and effort but that's what we needed to do to get our message out there, so we did it."

Skinner says it is important for those families not vaccinated to realise the campaign is not over.

"If you want to save your tamariki like the majority of Western Bay Maori families have chosen to do, you need to get your children immunised now. There's no point waiting around because meningococcal B sure doesn't."

ENDS


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