28 Apr 2010

Midwives seen as obstacle to more vaccination

7:58 pm on 28 April 2010

The national body representing midwives has hit back at criticism that some in the profession are actively dissuading parents from having their children vaccinated.

Parliament's health select committee, which is holding an inquiry into New Zealand's poor immunisation rates, was told today some midwives and parent educators refuse to discuss vaccination with parents.

The general practice coodinator for the Nelson Bays Primary Health organisation, Margaret Gibbs, says in one month, thirty babies in the region didn't make it onto the National Immunisation Register.

She says lead maternity carers should be audited to ensure they're meeting their contractual obligations.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand College of Midwives, Norma Campbell says all midwives are contractually and professionally bound to provide information regarding immunisation to allow parents to make an informed decision.

MPs have been told that opposition by some midwives could be a major factor in New Zealand's low rates of vaccination.

MPs have been told that opposition by some midwives could be a major factor in New Zealand's low rates of vaccination.

A Unicef report this year ranked New Zealand 33rd out of 35 developed countries for rates of vaccination against potentially deadly diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

Speaking at an inquiry on immunisation by Parliament's health select committee meeting on Wednesday, general practice managers from Nelson blamed a lack of coordination between midwives and doctors.

The general practice coordinator for the Nelson Bays Primary Health Organisation, Margaret Gibbs, says some midwives are failing to get babies onto the National Immunisation Register or NIR.

Ms Gibbs says she would also like to see parents given financial incentives to have their children vaccinated, as in Australia.

Cost to doctors viewed as barrier

Earlier, New Zealand Medical Association spokesman Mike Peterson told the committee that from the point of view of general practice, one of the main barriers to boosting immunisation rates is the cost.

The vaccination is free to children but researchers have found that the cost of immunisation and following up late vaccinations exceeds the government subsidy to doctors.

Regarding the Unicef report, Health Ministry officials admitted to the committee that there have been some problems with data collection and that rates may be better or worse in some regions.