Drop in immunisation rates
The number of parents refusing to have their children immunised against diseases has nearly doubled in Marlborough and Nelson.
Marlborough immunisation specialist Christine Holdaway said there were a high number of "conscientious objectors" to vaccinations in the region. It often took an epidemic for parents to change their minds, she said.
The growing number of objectors meant the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board missed its immunisation health target for children under two for the last quarter of the year.
The Ministry of Health insists 95 per cent of infants are immunised by 24 months for diseases such as whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and measles, mumps and rubella.
The health board achieved 85 per cent for January-March.
Parents declining vaccines jumped from 5.3 per cent to 9.1 per cent in that time.
Figures to the end of June were not available yesterday.
The national average of parents declining immunisation is about 5 per cent.
General practices in Marlborough had been working hard to improve immunisation rates, Mrs Holdaway said. The risk of vaccinating was far less than the risk of not vaccinating, she said.
However, Blenheim mother Tina Connor said none of her four children had vaccine shots as toddlers.
Her daughter caught whooping cough from a school friend.
"They call it the 100-day cough and that's what she had. There were no other symptoms."
Mrs Connor couldn't see the value of putting different types of ingredients directly into her baby's blood stream, she said.
She remains comfortable with her decision.
Health board community-based service director Peter Burton said parents had a responsibility to have their children vaccinated.
The board has teamed up with the region's two primary health organisations to tackle the drop in immunisation rates, he said.
"Our main focus is to stress the importance of immunisation and to follow up with parents who decline a vaccine for whatever reason. We need to encourage health professionals to persist, using every opportunity to ask parents whether their child's immunisation is up-to-date. This is a real community issue."
The Health Ministry immunisation goals are changing this year, targeting children under eight months rather than two years.
This will make the health board's job of meeting its targets more difficult, Mr Burton said.
Children received vaccination shots at six weeks, three months and five months, he said.
"There will be less follow up time to ensure children are immunised by eight months. This will require a more intensive effort."
- The Marlborough Express