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Doctors Urge Action on Immunisation

The immunisation of New Zealand children is too important to be used as a
pre-Election political football, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

"Politicians should stop arguing about whether a National Health Committee
report on immunisation had been suppressed or not" said NZMA Chairman Dr
Pippa MacKay. "Instead, politicians should acknowledge that immunisation
rates are declining because not enough has been done, particularly to ensure
that hard-to-reach children are immunised, and rise to the challenge to take
urgent action."

"Immunisation is critically important to the health of New Zealand children.
We are totally off-track to meet the Ministry of Health's Immunisation 2000
target of 95 percent coverage."

"The NZMA strongly believes that the general practice team should be at the
heart of plans to improve immunisation rates," she said.

A recent study in the New Zealand Medical Journal showed that a child who
had a six-week check by a GP was significantly more likely to be immunised
that a child who had a six-week check from any other health provider.
Immunisation of children is free, under the Well Child and Under-Sixes
programmes.

Dr MacKay said innovative approaches were needed, particularly to reach
children from lower-socio economic families, who were often highly mobile.

"As many as half the children admitted to Middlemore Hospital last winter
suffering from preventable illnesses did not have a GP," Dr MacKay said. "It
is vital to ensure that these children access the general practice team."



Immunisation levels in New Zealand are seriously low compared to many
overseas countries. The NZMA shares the World Health Organisation's serious
concerns that New Zealand's immunisation rate is holding back attempts to
eradicate measles world-wide, and that the potentially fatal disease is
being exported to other countries.

In contrast, a recent issue of the British Medical Journal reported that
measles has been eradicated in the USA as an indigenous disease.

ends

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