Up­take of vac­cine in SC is ‘poor’

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BEN AULAKH

South Can­ter­bury has one of the low­est Hu­man Papil­loma Virus (HPV) vac­ci­na­tion rates in New Zealand, prompt­ing the re­gion’s health board to turn to so­cial me­dia to boost num­bers.

Up­take for the vac­ci­na­tion has been de­scribed as ‘‘poor’’, with a 37 per cent par­tic­i­pa­tion rate in South Can­ter­bury.

Na­tion­ally, for the most re­cent group of chil­dren im­mu­nised, those born in 2002, the rate of vac­ci­na­tion was 66 per cent.

The news fol­lows re­cent con­tro­versy over a Ti­maru school ban­ning vac­ci­na­tions from be­ing ad­min­is­tered on school grounds.

In a bid to counter ‘‘neg­a­tive’’ so­cial me­dia in­for­ma­tion about vac­ci­na­tions, the South Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Health Board (SCDHB) is plan­ning to pub­lish in­for­ma­tion through its own so­cial me­dia chan­nels.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Trainor dis­cussed the rate of im­mu­ni­sa­tion dur­ing Fri­day’s board meet­ing.

‘‘The up­take has been poor, which is why we are one of the poor­est in the coun­try out­side the West Coast, our neigh­bour­ing DHBs are in the 65 per cent to 80 per cent up­take.

‘‘We are way down on what I be­lieve we should have achieved, we have got a lot of work to do there.’’

The HPV vac­cine was be­ing ad­min­is­tered free to all year 8 stu­dents at schools across New Zealand. South Can­ter­bury Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer of Health Dr Daniel Wil­liams said the im­mu­ni­sa­tion rate was ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’.

‘‘It’s a wake up call, it means too many of our young South Can­ter­bury peo­ple are miss­ing out on pro­tec­tion against HPV,’’ he said.

Most schools within South Can­ter­bury had been al­low­ing stu­dents to be vac­ci­nated on school grounds.

How­ever a small num­ber in the re­gion did not.

Board mem­ber Terry Kennedy asked if the DHB had ‘‘any spe­cific plans’’ for tack­ling the low vac­ci­na­tion rate.

‘‘We are go­ing to look at putting a so­cial me­dia page up and put out some so­cial me­dia on HPV,’’ Trainor said.

‘‘There is a lot of neg­a­tive so­cial me­dia out there, we just have have to work out how we moderate and re­spond to it.’’

He sug­gested so­cial me­dia was the right way for the DHB to in­ter­act with chil­dren they were look­ing to im­mu­nise as ‘‘that’s the mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion they use’’.

The Board of Trustees (BOT) at Grantlea Downs School had cho­sen to with­draw from the HPV vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme on the grounds of ‘‘parental choice’’ and ‘‘stu­dent safety’’.

A mem­ber of the school board, An­naleisha Coombes, sent an email ask­ing if the school had more in­for­ma­tion on the vac­cine be­fore re­quest­ing the is­sue be dis­cussed at the next BOT meet­ing.

BOT chair­man Nigel Chap­man was asked on Fri­day if the DHB pro­vid­ing more in­for­ma­tion about the vac­cine through so­cial me­dia might help in­form par­ents.

‘‘It’s dif­fi­cult to say to be hon­est. The thing is it’s a per­sonal choice. I think the more in­for­ma­tion out there the more it can help peo­ple. Ob­vi­ously any in­for­ma­tion that’s pro­vided is ben­e­fi­cial.

‘‘Any­thing the DHB does that helps that ... the more in­for­ma­tion the bet­ter.’’

Coombes was also asked the same ques­tion as Chap­man. She did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

SCDHB chair­man Ron Lux­ton told the meet­ing some peo­ple who had opted off the Na­tional Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Reg­is­ter (NIR), ‘‘may have been im­mu­nised but we don’t know that if they opt off the reg­is­ter, they could be, or maybe not, who knows’’.

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