Vaccination: Carrot or stick approach may be needed

Dr Diana Lennon, Professor of Clinical Paediatrics at the University of Auckland’s School of Medicine on immunisation and the current high rate of measles infection.

“New Zealand is unusual for a developed country in not making vaccination our priority or at least allowing adequate funding to provide levels of immunisation that will be possible to prevent disease and particularly epidemic diseases such as measles or whooping cough.

“We have demonstrated in the MeNZB™ programme that traditionally considered to be hard to reach groups such as Pacific children with the constraints of their parent’s access to healthcare and other reasons that we can provide a high level of immunisation in this group (>90% in pre-schoolers) and in other groups of greatest need.

“We note that the five important health priorities of the current Government include immunisation. Perhaps a consideration of the Australian approach to vaccine coverage could be considered. This approach involves carrot or stick approach with incentives and penalties both for parents but also for those in the healthcare system.

“Over the last decades, I believe, there has been an improvement in the understanding of the need for immunisation in any community and this is reflected in marginally better rates in the last 10 years. However, there is still a long way to go.

“Unfortunately it was only time before New Zealand would experience another measles epidemic. 75-80% coverage with the measles vaccine is never going to be sufficient to prevent an epidemic and this epidemic could therefore have been predicted. There are clear solutions.”