An increasing number of parents across Nelson Marlborough want to be fully informed when it comes to making decisions on immunisation, a health board member says.
Board member Judy Crowe said people needed to be given balanced information when it came to making the decision whether or not to vaccinate their children.
“Locally, nationally and even worldwide there is a groundswell amongst the public about being given opportunities to learn and question information on vaccines.”
Board staff said immunisation was a key health issue to prevent devastating problems for children, but agreed it was important to have comprehensive information.
Crowe’s comments were related to a joint Ministry of Social Development and Nelson Marlborough Health outreach initiative to increase immunisation rates, referred to as track and chase.
Alongside being warned of possible side effects. People also needed to know about the risks and the ingredients in the vaccines, Crowe said at a full meeting of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board on Tuesday.
“I think our DHB needs to prepare themselves for what is to follow because of this public awareness which is growing.”
Crowe said her own children had been vaccinated and she was speaking from a neutral platform.
She had a “real concern” that parents were well informed and went through the correct processes when it came to choosing whether or not to vaccinate.
Crowe suggested the health board look into its practices around informed consent to be sure it was ticking the boxes with every vaccination that was administered throughout the health system by GPs, practice nurses and public health nurses.
Chief medical officer Dr Nick Baker said the issue Crowe raised was very important.
He cited the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) as an important and independent source of information on vaccines in New Zealand.
After Crowe voiced concerns about potentially harmful vaccine ingredients, Baker checked the Ministry of Health’s immunisation handbook and said none of the vaccines in the New Zealand schedule currently contained thimerosol, a mecury-based compound.
“But do they contain aluminium?” Crowe said.
“I think that is why we need a full response,” Baker said.
“But I think we shouldn’t underestimate the best thing we ever did for child health was vaccination, apart from separating sewage from drinking water.”
The Ministry of Health sets national targets for immunisation, which is that 95 per cent of eight-month-olds have their primary course of immunisation at six weeks, three months and five months on time.
In the last quarter to December 2016, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board were meeting 91 per cent of the target.
Chief executive Dr Peter Bramley thanked Crowe for raising the issue and suggested the clinical governance team ensure the information they had was up to date so the health board were fully and appropriately informed.
He said he felt quite strongly about the issue and that the health board needed to investigate such concerns.
As “governors of the health system” Bramley said the board had a public duty to make sure its leadership on the issue was clear.
“If we are not careful and we sow seeds of doubt in our community inappropriately then I am really concerned that lots of little ones … might choose not to get immunised.”
He said choosing not to get immunised from communicable diseases could have a “devastating” result on a child’s health.
“We need to do the homework and we will get our clinical governance team to lead it.
“Let’s be very careful that our messaging and our commentary doesn’t undermine the confidence in what actually is a key public health issue that protects our population.”