Uptake of vaccine in SC is ‘poor’
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’’.