June floods have little or no impact on Whanganui's immunisation programme

4 August 2015
Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) has had no reports of immunisations being missed as a direct result of the June floods.
However, the fact that some families had to move house due to flood damage, may have some still-to-be-seen impact says WDHB maternal, child and youth health portfolio manager Jon Buchan.
Mr Buchan paid tribute to Whanganui’s city and rural general practices “who were very good at remaining open in difficult circumstances”. “This may have ‘saved the day’ when it came to children receiving timely immunisations,” Mr Buchan says.
In the meantime, the WDHB is concerned that nine families declined to have their children immunised during quarter four of the 2014/15 year – a small but growing number of families who by declining vaccination against communicable disease are posing a risk for those children who are not immunised.
Mr Buchan says the WDHB fears an increasing trend of non-compliance will increase the likelihood of preventable epidemics across the district.
He says measles is a good example of what could happen. While measles is a disease that’s on the decline thanks to immunisation, if families continue to decline immunising their children against it, a resurgence of measles could occur.
Tetanus is another example of a preventable disease that could increase. While tetanus can’t be passed
from person to person, an unimmunised person can catch tetanus from the soil or a cut caused by an item such as dirty and/or rusting garden implements.
The WDHB follows up each unimmunised child to ensure their parents or caregivers understand the importance of immunisation and to check that they are making an informed decision. 

A further concern for the WDHB is the higher than normal level of uncompleted immunisations in quarter four and the fact that children living in deprived circumstances are missing out on timely vaccinations.
Besides the nine families who declined immunisations for their children in the fourth quarter, there were 12 families in the Whanganui district for whom timeliness was an issue.
On a positive note, Whanganui DHB’s immunisation coverage increased from 86 percent to 88 percent coverage of fully immunised eight-month-old children in the fourth quarter. And coverage of fully immunised 12-month-old children remained stable at 93 percent.