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Get immunised – for yourself and your family

Only seven in 10 Pacific children in Aotearoa are fully immunised for measles, mumps and rubella but health officials are concerned by regional differences.

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World Immunisation Week has kicked off and Markerita Poutasi, National Director Pacific Health, has a simple message for Pacific communities: do what’s best for you and your aiga/kainga.

Only seven in 10 Pacific children are fully immunised with two doses for measles, mumps and rubella.

However, there are stark differences regionally with Pacific rates of 64 per cent in the central North Island and 82 per cent in the South Island.

“So really that sort of variability is what we're seeing come through and what we're really wanting to talk about is making sure everyone has access to immunisation and particularly where it's free,” says Poutasi.

Immunisations for measles, mumps and rubella are free for everyone under the age of 18 irrespective of your residency status.

World Immunisation Week

This week is World Immunisation Week, with the World Health Organization (WHO) looking to raise awareness of the disparities that persist in vaccine coverage.

This year's theme for the week, which runs from 24-30 April, is about improving access to immunisations for all children, no matter where they live or their socio-economic background.

The WHO has emphasised the vital role vaccines play in preventing diseases and the importance of achieving equity in health.

Poutasi says immunisations are a layer of protection that can really help people from getting sick in the first place, or if it's a really bad virus, prevent people from going into hospital.

She says immunisations save lives because they prevent people from getting really sick.

“Many of our families have connections or memories or direct experiences of what measles did to Samoa (in 2019) and at that time they had a really low immunisation rate.”

“Now a few years on, Samoa has a really high immunisation rate. They're like 80s–plus closer to 90s, and they're looking across at us, because our families move around, and they're saying: ‘Hey, New Zealand, what about your measles protection level so that you can also protect people at home’ and they're really right.

“Measles is a fast spreading disease and when it hits young people and children in particular, it comes across quite toxic, like really hot, you've got really high fever. Any mum who's had a child with an uncontrolled fever understands how distressing that is.”

Watch the full interview on Pacific Mornings with Markerita Poutasi, National Director of Pacific Health here:

How to book your vaccine

As we head into the winter season, Pacific health providers are running local and regional events to promote childhood immunisation, influenza, measles, whooping cough and covid vaccinations, please email PacificCommunications@TeWhatuOra.govt.nz to find out about an event happening in your region and how to access key messages.

  • Book a vaccine for yourself, a family member, or a group at bookmyvaccine.health.nz or call the Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 – available 8:30am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday for information, advice, and support to book a vaccination. Calls are free, callers can opt to speak with a Māori clinician, and interpreters are available. Or contact your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or GP.

  • The latest information about immunisation is available on the Health NZ, Te Whatu Ora website: Immunisations | Health Information and Services

Poutasi says the regional difference in immunisation rates signifies a substantial risk not only to individuals but to the community at large.

"It's really about how immunisation saves lives and how having that layer of protection can be good not just for your own health and wellbeing but help support family members who might also be vulnerable in your household," she explained.

"You can get your measles, mumps, rubella vaccine at lots of places—your GP clinics, Pacific providers that offer a range of other services, and soon, pharmacies,"

Poutasi says Pacific providers will be out and about this week, offering flu, MMR and other vaccinations.

“If you see an event, feel free to go down and check out what your family might need. Flu, covid vaccines for those eligible from six months onwards and obviously measles, mumps, rubella.”

When asked, Poutasi agreed there had been a lot of misinformation about vaccinations during the Covid pandemic, especially online.

She said if you’re getting the information second or third hand through social media, it may be difficult to know whether it’s real or fake news.

“I really go back down to those basics. Is it someone that's known directly by your experience or your family's experience? Is it someone at church or is it a story that's two or three times removed? And that's sort of how you can check.

“And if it's health information, then really your nurses, your GPs, the people at your local Pacific provider who actually might have a bit more information, can really help you to work out what you need and what's best for your family.”

She was grateful to those who have been vaccinated.

"Thank you to everyone who's gotten vaccinated. And a big shout out to all our vaccinators, our health workforce, and providers. We appreciate all the work you do."

World Immunisation Week Pacific events

Saturday 27 April
The Fono, 8.30am - 1pm, 6 Alderman Drive, Henderson
Pasefika Family Health Group, 10.00am - 12.30pm, 36 Winthrop Way, Mangere East
Vaka Tautua, 9am - 2pm. Aranui Community Hall, Christchurch
Etu Pasifika, 9am - 3pm, Te Aratai College, Aldwins Road, Christchurch

Monday 29 April
Tangata Atumotu Trust, 6pm - 8pm, Ashburton Event Centre
Fale Pasifika, 10am - 4pm, Kaikohe Broadway Health (flu shots)

Tuesday 30 April
Fale Pasifika, 12pm - 5.30pm, The Warehouse Kaitatia (flu shots)
Pacific Island Advisory Community Trust (PIACT) 4pm - 6pm, Invercargill
Southseas Healthcare, 10am - 2pm, 5 Otara Road, Otara

All week:
Tongan Health Society, 9am - 5pm, Langimalie Centres Otahuhu, Onehunga, Kelston and Panmure
Southpoint Family Doctors, 9am - 5.30pm, Manukau