Apparently last week was National Immunisation Week, promoted by the Ministry of Health as part of the WHO’s Western Pacific Region Vaccination Week. It completely passed me by, hence this post a week after the event. Oops. This is what the WHO had in mind:
Educate parents and caregivers about the importance of vaccination in protecting their children from birth and onwards against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Focus attention on immunization achievements and celebrate the accomplishments made possible through successful collaboration
Revitalize efforts to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases and give them a healthy start in life
Create events that attract community and media to increase the number and visibility of national and local media stories on infant immunization
Recognize local partners and volunteers for their year-round efforts helping to raise childhood immunization coverage, with special emphasis on completing the vaccination series
Open doors for resource mobilization activities at the local, national and regional level
So how did NZ do? A quick search of google doesn’t bring up much in the way of events or media stories. It was mentioned by the Science Media Centre and Plunket, while the Dominion Post ran an article suggesting one of the reasons people don’t vaccinate is because they don’t think the diseases are that serious. I found a press release on the Northland District Health Board’s website which showed quite a few events taking place in their region, including drop in clinics and information stalls in Dargaville and Whangarei.
So while there seems to have been a lack of events that generated serious media interest, lets hope a lot of local events happened and a few more people became convinced of the need to vaccinate. Apparently the Ministry of Health is developing a campaign to lift vaccination rates to the levels needed for herd immunity. This will take the form of an informative, consumer friendly website (www.immunise.govt.nz although it doesn’t seem to be up yet) as well as radio, online and magazine advertising targeting parents of under twos. This can’t come soon enough, with another two measles cases confirmed in Auckland last week.
The campaign was one of the recommendations of a recent report to government on how to improve vaccination rates. Needless to say, the report is long but starts with a summary of its recommendations which include:
exploring providing incentives to immunisation providers and parents.
strengthening the requirements on parents to present immunisation information when their children enrol at early childhood centres or schools.
strengthening the legal and contractual requirements for health professionals involved in maternity care to provide scientifically credible immunisation information, in contexts including antenatal classes.
Predictably, our friends at the Immunisation Awareness Society* are urging everyone to contact their MP and make a stand against what they describe as the ‘Draconian measures’ and ‘infringements on our liberty’. I suggest we all contact our MP’s in support of the recommendations.
On a lighter note, last month Andrew Wakefield was awarded the Pigasus** Refusal to Face Reality Award by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Since 1997, the Pigasus Awards have been bestowed annually on the most deserving charlatans, swindlers, psychics, pseudo-scientists, and faith healers–and on their credulous enablers, too. This year, Wakefield was deemed a worthy recipient as he continues to flog the dead horse that is his ‘link’ between MMR and autism, despite the fact he has been struck off the medical register and his work thoroughly debunked***.
* The non-profit charity which claims to be dedicated to promoting informed choice. Providing you choose not to vaccinate, that is….
** The awards are named for both the mythical flying horse Pegasus of Greek mythology and the highly improbable flying pig of popular cliche.