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Fact Sheet from the Ministry of Health

With Dr Anna Twhigg

Immunisation Fact Sheet - Ministry of Health

- Protecting your child and your community by getting your child immunised on time is the theme for Immunisation Week (April 23-29) - and it's free.
- It's the second time New Zealand has participated in the World Health Organization international Immunisation Week. It's celebrated with events, displays and activities that promote immunisation in communities.
- Babies and children in New Zealand are offered free immunisations that protect against a range of preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough. These diseases can lead to serious illness, hospitalisations and may cause long term harm.
- Teenage girls are also offered free immunisation that protects against the most common strains of human papillomavirus that can lead to cervical cancer.
- Immunisation uses the body's natural defence mechanism, the immune response, to build resistance to specific infections.
- When a person who has been immunised against a particular disease comes into contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will respond to protect them.
- Immunisation doesn't just protect the person who has it - if we have high immunisation rates other people in our community who can't be immunised for example children having cancer treatment, also get protection because the risk of a disease spreading can be reduced or prevented.
- It's not unusual to get a mild temporary reaction like pain or redness where the injection went in, or a fever, after immunisation. More serious reactions following immunisation are very rare.
- GPs or the public can report serious reactions following an immunisation to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring in Dunedin.
- If you are concerned about any reaction following immunisation, please call your GP or call Healthline 0800611 116 for free advice from trained registered nurses.
- For many years New Zealand's immunisation rates were low by comparison to other developed countries - back in 2007 only 67 percent of two-year-olds had had all the recommended immunisations for their age.
- But since immunisation was made a Health Target, there has been a big focus throughout the health sector on increasing vaccination rates.
- Now about 92 percent of all New Zealand two-year-olds are fully immunised.
- We want to get to 95 percent by July. By achieving and maintaining high immunisation rates long term, the misery and hospitalisations caused by disease outbreaks like the measles outbreak last year, will be over or greatly reduced.
- From July, the Government is introducing a new Health Target which is all about making sure babies get their immunisations on time, every time.
- The goal is that by the end of 2014, 95 percent of all eight-month-olds will have had their immunisations at six weeks, three and five months.
- Why is that important? Babies are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases like whooping cough - 94 children under one have been hospitalised with this disease since the current NZ outbreak began last year (1 August 2011 to 13 April 2012).
- It's a good example of why it's important for babies to get the recommended immunisations on time as infants aren't protected from whooping cough until they have had their immunisations against this disease at six weeks, three and five months.
- Immunisation is not mandatory in New Zealand. It's important that parents make an informed choice for their child and that any concerns or questions that they have about vaccines are answered.
- If you have concerns or questions about immunisation, please talk it over with your doctor, practice nurse or health provider.
- You can also find more information at the Ministry of Health's website
- You can also find more information at the Immunisation Advisory Centre website or call the free immunisation helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

(Broadcast: 24 Apr 2012)