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Working To Improve New Zealand Childhood Immunisation Rates

Keeping our communities equitably protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunisation is something general practices nationwide work incredibly hard towards every day.

“Our immunisation schedule is designed to protect individuals, communities and to save lives,” says Porirua-based Specialist General Practitioner and Chair of General Practice New Zealand, Dr Bryan Betty.

“Our current rates of childhood immunisation are sadly far below the target of 95 per cent. A recently published Te Whatu Ora report shows children fully immunised at age 24 months at 83.1 per cent for total population, and just 69 per cent for Māori.

“This leaves tamariki at risk of preventable – and deadly – diseases. We’ve had several near misses in recent months for measles in particular, and I fear how long our luck will hold against a wide-spread community outbreak.

“There are a lot of factors that must change in order to turn this around.

“We believe it's a push and a pull approach needed – alongside removing barriers we must also do much more to tackle misinformation and encourage people to seek immunisation.”

General Practice New Zealand stands firmly behind all efforts to improve immunisation rates and is involved in ongoing discussions with Te Whatu Ora and Manatū Hauora to implement a variety of recommendations from the immunisation taskforce report.

Access to vaccination has been identified as one of the biggest barriers, and significant changes were announced today to increase the opportunities for whānau by opening the door for pharmacies to play a role in delivering childhood immunisations.

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General Practice will continue to play a critical role, with Primary Health Organisations supporting and coordinating general practice and other immunisation providers to work together.

Dr Betty is encouraged by the range of concerns raised during consultation, and the responses from Pharmac and Te Whatu Ora to these concerns such as their acknowledgement of the importance of the 6-week pepi and maternal medical checks remaining in general practice, facilitating newborn enrolment, precall/recall activity, coordination and systems to ensure information flows well.

“Continuity of care is vital. General practice has a particular skill in leveraging the immunisation visit to check on other health needs of pepi, māmā and the wider whānau. It’s important regardless of the place people access their immunisations, be it a pharmacy or outreach venue, that we have robust systems in place to enable broader screening of the clinical needs of the whole whānau, effective referral pathways back to general practice, and sustainable funding for practice and providers to co-design localised community approaches.”

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