20 Jul 2016

Northland parents more likely to leave kids unvaccinated

9:40 am on 20 July 2016

Northland region has more than twice the national rate of parents who refuse vaccinations for their children, new research shows.

A baby is vaccinated.

Photo: 123RF

Juliet Rumball-Smith from the Northland District Health Board and Tim Kenealy from the University of Auckland looked at data from the National Immunisation Register between 2009 and 2013 when nearly 12,000 children were born in the Northland region.

Dr Rumball-Smith said the study found that of this group only 90 percent of the children had a full immunisation programme at the age of 8 months, involving immunisation at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months.

That compared to a national average at this age of close to 94 percent, and the government health target of 95 percent.

Dr Juliet Rumball-Smith

Dr Juliet Rumball-Smith Photo: SUPPLIED

It was difficult to say why parents refused vaccinations, but there were several common factors.

"One is around confidence around the vaccine, safety and the immunisation process, the second is that potentially parents and caregivers may underestimate the seriousness of these diseases and their risk of getting them, the third reason is some people find it difficult to physically or culturally access these services.

"And that's why it's really important that we maintain patient-centred, high quality services particularly for rural communities."

Dr Rumball-Smith said of the group who declined vaccines for their babies, 52 percent were New Zealand European and 41 percent were NZ Māori.

She said contrary to popular belief having a healthy, rural, outdoors lifestyle did not protect against diseases like measles or whooping cough.