Immunisation schemes 'saving Kiwi children'

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2013

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Thousands of Kiwi children have been saved from deadly diseases by national immunisation programmes.

Without the measles vaccine over the past 10 years, up to 600 Kiwis could have died and 300 suffered serious brain damage, new figures show.

Since the pneumococcal vaccine in 2008, there has been a 97 per cent drop in severe diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia and blood poisoning.

"Because you don't actually see the benefits in a child who might otherwise have been unwell, it's easy to forget how many healthy children would have been sick or dead if not for out National Immunisation Programme," Dr Stewart Reid said.

The former long-term Ministry of Health immunisation adviser said there would always be concerns about how to further improve population health, but New Zealand's vaccine programmes deserved recognition because they had single-handedly "saved thousands of children from serious diseases".

His comments mark the international World Immunisation Week.

The World Health Organisation, which runs World Immunisation Week, found vaccines are equally as important as clean water and antibiotics for saving children from death and disease.

The Ministry of Health national target rate is 95 per cent of Kiwi children to be immunised by two years of age. Canterbury is currently sitting at 91 per cent.

Reid, who has dabbled in vaccinology since the 1980s, said the vaccination of 2-year-olds has leapt from about 50 per cent in 2007 to nearly 95 per cent in 2012.

New Zealand has seen expanded funding for whooping cough and influenza vaccines and growing support for the funding of new vaccines.

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- The Press

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