Goodhew: Immunisation Conference
11 September, 2013
Speech: Immunisation Conference
E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.
Thanks Theo for your kind introduction and good evening everyone. Thank you to IMAC for inviting me here to close the first day of the eighth New Zealand Immunisation Conference. It really is a pleasure.
Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge:
• Dr Marc LaForce, founding director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project in Africa
• Dr Nigel Crawford, Medical Head of Immunisation Services at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital
• Dr Pat Tuohy, the Ministry of Health’s Chief Advisor Child and Youth Health and Immunisation Champion, and
• Dr Nikki Turner, Associate Professor and General Practitioner and IMAC Director for their valued contributions to the conference.
Vaccines play a vital role in keeping New Zealanders healthy and well. They protect us from many serious but preventable diseases. Every year we spend around $50 million on vaccines and the delivery of the National Immunisation Programme.
Our immunisation programme is in great shape and we’re well positioned to protect New Zealanders today, and into the future. I, along with many of you, look forward to PHARMAC’s decision on whether to add yet more vaccines to our kete, enabling us to better protect our children and our communities.
The National-led government is committed to protecting the health of New Zealanders. Increased immunisation continues to be a priority for us. This is why it was included in the Better Public Services programme.
Better Public Services Result area three focuses on protecting our children. We are striving to increase infant immunisation rates and reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever.
From my experience as a former nurse, I’ve seen the impact of preventable diseases in New Zealand. Clearly immunisation is the best way to protect our babies, our children, families and communities. This is why we made immunisation a priority for the health sector.
In 2009 we refocused the immunisation health target aimed at two-year-olds. Last year, we set a new more challenging target - strengthening our commitment to supporting and protecting vulnerable children.
The results are outstanding. Where once we lagged behind most other developed countries; New Zealand children are now some of the best protected in the world. An amazing 90 percent of eight-month-old babies have been fully immunised a full year ahead of the projected target that 95 percent of all eight-month-olds will be fully immunised by December next year.
The coverage for two-year-olds is also pleasing. We’ve lifted coverage rates considerably in recent years and, as Dr Tuohy highlighted this morning, immunisation rates for Maori and those living in areas of high deprivation have also improved. These individuals and communities are now better protected than ever before, setting the foundation for longer and healthier lives.
What an outstanding effort and one to be celebrated.
I also want to acknowledge the success of the influenza immunisation programme. This influenza season saw a record number of New Zealanders choosing to be vaccinated. We distributed 1.25 million doses. A fantastic result and the best since the funded programme was introduced in the mid-1990s.
It is your hard work and dedication that ensures our communities are better protected against vaccine preventable diseases. Thank you.
As well as increasing coverage, we’ve made vaccines even more accessible with:
• influenza vaccinations at community
• free influenza vaccinations for the under-fives with respiratory illness; and
• free whooping cough immunisation for pregnant women.
While the focus needs to remain on maintaining high coverage and continuing to review our systems and processes, we are now in a much better place to expand the current schedule and add new vaccines.
Thanks to your hard work the public have greater trust and confidence in the sector and we’re consistently improving immunisation rates. The decrease in decline rates in recent years and the corresponding increase in coverage have proved this.
It is a real testament to the work you have done when parents show they understand the benefits of immunisation by actively choosing to protect their children.
Over the horizon, vaccine research and development are essential if we are to combat preventable diseases that cause a huge amount of misery and suffering.
For example, the Government announced earlier this year that we, alongside the Australian government, are contributing $3 million over the next two years for scientists on both sides of the Tasman to collaboratively identify a potential vaccine for Group A Streptococcus.
I’m also aware that New Zealand researchers are working on new vaccines for melanoma and brain cancer as well as on internationally-funded projects such as SHIVERS, the Southern Hemisphere Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance.
Another area under development is how vaccines are delivered to our communities.
Traditionally service delivery has been in General Practice and through public health programmes. The addition of pharmacist vaccinators two years ago is a welcome one. It has improved access and uptake by the public, ensuring as many people as possible are protected by immunisation.
While pharmacists can currently only administer influenza vaccines, I understand this is about to be extended to include whooping cough and meningococcal disease vaccines.
Midwives are also key players when it comes to ensuring people, especially women and newborns, can access immunisation services.
While many midwives may not provide the immunisations, they do pass on important information to parents-to-be and encourage early immunisation of babies. We know that 84 percent of newborns have commenced their immunisations by six weeks.
Good engagement with your midwives and Well Child Tamariki Ora providers is vital to ensuring a seamless service delivery approach.
As well as protecting others from disease, it is also important that we protect ourselves. We all have a duty of care to ensure that we don’t spread disease by making sure we wash our hands. I am therefore pleased to note that the national hand hygiene programme has increased hand washing by nearly 6 percent in the last three months.
It is just as important to make sure that, as healthcare professionals, our immunisations are up-to-date. I’m sure the last thing any of us would want to do is pass on an illness we may have, especially to those most vulnerable - newborns and the elderly in particular need us to look out for them.
Early indications are showing that more health care workers have immunised themselves against influenza this year than ever before which is encouraging. One DHB has reported 76 percent coverage for Healthcare workers – another outstanding result and one which I hope will be replicated around New Zealand.
As noted in the conference programme, 2013 is a time for celebration. Our immunisation rates show an increased acceptance and support for immunisation; and we’re engaging with more and more families who choose to immunise.
This year we have an excellent opportunity to look beyond the horizon: once we achieve our goals, what next? As well as maintaining levels of immunisation, what other challenges can we take on? What will the future hold?
Everyone here today plays an important role in protecting and maintaining the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. We all have a responsibility to ensure New Zealanders are able to fully participate in our society by helping keep them healthy and well.
Immunisation is one of the best tools we have to protect the health of New Zealanders. This conference offers us an opportunity to reflect on this and the role we play, what more we can do to ensure a healthy, happy New Zealand.
I’m delighted to close the first plenary day of the eighth New Zealand Immunisation Conference. Enjoy your evening and best wishes for the next two days.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.