‘Failed’ immunisation system needs to be remade urgently, doctors say

A Māori paediatrician and the head of the University of Auckland’s Department of Paediatrics have called for a “failed” immunisation system to be remade from the bottom up.

Dr Owen Sinclair

Declines in childhood immunisation rates are leaving New Zealand children vulnerable to epidemics of diseases such as measles and whooping cough.

Dr Owen Sinclair, one of seven Māori paediatricians in the country, and Professor Cameron Grant, head of the university’s Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health, make their case in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal.

The commentary is entitled `New Zealand’s immunisation policy fails again and entrenches ethnic disparities.’

The pair highlight statistics including years-long declines in immunisation rates, widening ethnic disparities, and a “dire” 54 percent immunisation coverage for six-month-old Māori children.

“The current approach to providing immunisation, based in primary care, is fundamentally flawed and will never be sufficient,” the doctors write. Disparate organisations lack coordination and for-profit primary health care fails to favour preventative medicine, they say.

“The continued failure of immunisation delivery in New Zealand means there needs to be a total ground-up reworking of how immunisations are delivered.”

Commenting on the article, Dr Sinclair, who’s an honorary academic with the university, said there was potential to use the system established for Covid-19 vaccinations for a catch-up campaign for childhood immunisations.

“We need to act quickly, we’re hurtling towards the type of situation that led to Samoa’s devastating measles epidemic,” said Dr Sinclair, who works for the Waitemata District Health Board.

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