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Immunisation coverage up - NZ falling behind in vaccine use

MEDIA RELEASE

Immunisation coverage up but NZ falling behind in new vaccine use

September 9, 2013: New Zealand is now among the best in the world in reducing equity gaps in immunisation coverage, reports the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) as it heralds the 8th New Zealand National Immunisation Conference to be held in Auckland this week from September 10 -12.

IMAC director Dr Nikki Turner says that, “We have nearly eliminated the traditional immunisation equity gaps for young children from areas of poverty, Māori and Pasifika children.  The ongoing challenge, however, is to sustain the energy and enthusiasm for maintaining our targets.”

Dr Turner says Māori in 1996 were nearly two-thirds less likely to be immunised than NZ European and were 27 percent behind – now they are only very slightly behind, with a gap of 2%. Pasifika groups also went from 19 percent behind to higher than NZ European and there is overall no gap for socio-economic status (poverty).

“Although we should celebrate our improvements in immunisation, challenges still remain. We have a current pertussis epidemic, still measles outbreaks, and pockets of low immunity from a history of low delivery rates to certain ages and geographies. Some particular groups of children continue to miss out – some families are very mobile and are often associated with all the challenges related to poverty.”

She says New Zealand has fallen behind other equivalent countries in its use of important new vaccines such as rotavirus (a virus which causes severe diarrhoea) and varicella (chickenpox and shingles). There are also important new international developments in the use of meningococcal vaccines and HPV for boys.

Dr Turner says New Zealand can learn from those experts engaged in some of the most significant efforts against vaccine-preventable disease in the world.  This week’s conference theme is ‘What’s over the horizon?’.  Conference participants will hear about meningococcal disease control in Africa; stories from the USA’s experience with varicella vaccine and stories about the introduction of new vaccines in Fiji, among other topics.

International conference keynote speakers include: Associate Professor Jim Buttery, head of Infectious Diseases and director of Research at Monash Children’s Hospital, Melbourne; Dr Marc La Force, founding director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project in Africa; Dr Nigel Crawford, medical head of Immunisation Services, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and Dr Barbara J. Kuter of Merck Research Laboratories, USA.

ENDS

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