Big rise in Maori and Pacific immunisation rates

Immunisation rates for Maori children have improved so much they're now equal or better than non-Maori rates in much of the country.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says it's part of an unprecedented improvement in New Zealand's previously poor childhood immunisation rates.

Mr Ryall says the latest data shows that 90% of Maori children and 95% of Pacific children were fully immunised by the age of two.

In 2007, immunisation rates were just 59% for Maori and 63% percent for Pacific children.

Mr Ryall says two-year-old Maori children now have higher immunisation rates than European New Zealand children in eight district health board areas, and equal rates in four others.

Results for Pacific communities are even better, with equal or better rates in 17 DHB areas.

The head of the Auckland University Immunisation Advisory Centre, Nikki Turner, says making immunisation a health target in 2006 added impetus to moves already under way to do better.

"We have shown in New Zealand that we can deliver immunisation to all our children even those that are harder to reach, even those that come from difficult backgrounds."

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board says a team effort is behind a dramatic improvement in childhood immunisation in its district.

Janet McLean, general manager of Maori health planning and funding at the DHB, says in 2009 it had the lowest overall childhood immunisation rate of all 20 DHBs, but they have turned things around.

Ms McLean said the DHB works with a range of key service providers including GPs, hospitals and midwives, and everyone is clear about what their role is.

Doctors say monitoring of performance and some small financial incentives have helped achieve better childhood immunisation.

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