Some pregnant women receive no information about immunising children - report
A new report has found some pregnant women are given no information about immunising their children, thus delaying vaccines - or preventing them altogether - once a child is born.
The University of Auckland Centre for Longitudinal Research, He Ara ki Mua, interviewed more than 6000 women about what information they had received about immunisations while pregnant.
The findings, published on Friday in the journal Pediatrics, showed infant immunisations are more likely to be delayed if women receive discouraging information during pregnancy.
Study senior author Professor Cameron Grant said the research set out to identify what proportion of women receive information that supports or opposes immunisation while pregnant, and how that effects the timing of their children's immunisations.
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The interviews took place between 2009 and 2010 as part of the Growing Up in New Zealand survey with women who were at an average of 39 weeks' gestation.
Fewer than half (44 per cent) of the 6182 mothers interviewed recalled receiving any information about immunising their future children.
Thirty per cent said they had received only encouraging information, while nine percent received both encouraging and discouraging advice.
Five per cent of women said they had received only discouraging information.
The women surveyed were representative of New Zealand in terms of ethnicity and socio-economic background, so the findings are generalisable to the rest of the country, Grant said.
Most women received immunisation information from health care providers (35 per cent), family and friends (14 per cent) and the media (14 per cent).
The majority said they received only encouraging information about vaccinations from health care providers, while family and friends and media were sources of discouragement.
Grant said he was concerned to see that one in six women who recalled receiving discouraging information identified their health care provider as the source of that information.
"It is clear that pregnant women receiving information which discourages infant immunisation has a negative effect on subsequent healthcare delivery to that infant, even when they have also received information which encourages immunisation," he said.
Grant said often the issues with immunisation delivery lie with the healthcare providers, not just the families.
"We sometimes make it harder than it should be to get children immunised".
The report also showed that giving women encouraging information about immunisation was "no more effective than receiving no information".
Women are receiving conflicting advice about infant immunisation, which requires attention, Grant said.
"We cannot prevent pregnant women from being exposed to information discouraging immunisation, but we can improve the ways in which we deliver encouraging information and ensure that they meet the information needs of everyone," he said.
Grant also said there should be greater focus on covering issues around infant immunisation during pregnancy.
During pregnancy parents have more time to think and plan, so that's when healthcare providers have to work "very hard" to make sure people are well informed, he said.
"It can't be left until the baby is born."
"Irrespective of a person's personal opinion, they have a professional duty to encourage young children to be immunised against diseases that if not immunised could kill them".
The report comes just weeks after an "unrelenting mumps outbreak" in Auckland triggered a health warning from authorities, urging parents to ensure their children are immunised.
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said at the time they were concerned not enough Aucklanders were immunised.
A record 142 mumps cases have been reported in Auckland this year – compared to 35 last year.