Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, April 18, 2005

Deadly bug risk to 43% of toddlers

"It also appeared that the anti-immunisation lobby was scaring off some parents through misleading and inaccurate information about the safety of the vaccination, said Mr McRae."

Deadly bug risk to 43% of toddlers

By Ruth Woodward
The lives of almost half the Bay's youngest children are at risk from meningococcal disease because they have not yet been vaccinated.

Ten weeks into the region's immunisation programme, the number of children aged under five being vaccinated has flattened out to 57 per cent - leaving more than 40 per cent of youngsters at risk of catching the potentially fatal disease.

Western Bay Primary Health Organisation general manager Roger Taylor said this level must be lifted to 90 per cent or more.

"If we don't reach 90 per cent we have to really question how seriously we are taking the health of our children," said Mr Taylor. "The ultimate measure of success for the programme is what the final rate of immunisation is.

"Practices are reporting many undecided parents who want to wait and see what happens. Some have been misled to believe they can hold off until they see whether claims about the safety of the vaccine or the extent of the epidemic are true."

Mr Taylor said the slowest group to accept the programme were non-Maori middle New Zealanders - a sub-group who seemed to think they were safe from the disease.

"The most horrific (meningococcal) stories are from middle New Zealand kids. This (disease) has really shocked the hell out of those families," he said.

"Up to 20 per cent of people carry the bacteria in their noses and throats. The risk is high for all children under five and especially for those aged under one."

Maori parents had been far more responsive than non-Maori parents to the programme with a steady uptake of Maori children being vaccinated across the Western Bay.

Immunisation programme project manager John McRae said there appeared to be a false sense of security amongst some parents.

"It is most important for parents to realise that meningococcal knows no boundaries between Maori, non-Maori and deprivation."

Holding back could also mean no second chance for vaccination. The $200 million immunisation programme ends in October and Government has made no decision about including the vaccine in the regular immunisation schedule for young children in the future.

Mr McRae said this increased the urgency for parents to take the opportunity while the vaccination was free and available.

There was also a group of parents (about five per cent) who had declined to join the programme for personal reasons.

It also appeared that the anti-immunisation lobby was scaring off some parents through misleading and inaccurate information about the safety of the vaccination, said Mr McRae.

Other children were missing out on the vaccination due to confusion about where they can and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccinations could only be given in the schools, unless there was a clinical reason for the child to be vaccinated in a GP setting.

Medical officer of health, Dr Phil Shoemack, scotched claims the Government was "frightening" parents into getting their children vaccinated. "Meningococcal disease is frightening and medical authorities have a duty to put the facts in front of people."

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