TODAY |

A look back at vaccinations in NZ's history as nation begins biggest immunisation effort

The first vaccine ever offered in New Zealand was in 1863 against smallpox and although it was compulsory for children for the next 40 years, fewer than one per cent were vaccinated against the deadly disease.

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The Covid-19 vaccine effort is under way, as those working on the frontline get their jabs. Source: 1 NEWS

Vaccines followed for diphtheria, tuberculosis, tetanus and polio and immunisation rates slowly increased.

However, it wasn’t until the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s that vaccines became more widely adopted.

As infectious diseases have declined, so has the rate of immunisation.

Immunisation expert Dr Nikki Turner is concerned.

“People forget where we started from. We have eradicated smallpox from the world. We need historians to stand here and tell us what the world used to be like.”

Turner believes vaccines have created complacency.

"I think the problem the world has to learn, and New Zealand has to learn, is once we get on top of a disease with a vaccine we forget," she said.

"Let’s remember now we are in the middle of a pandemic and these vaccines are performing really well."

Convincing people has always been a struggle. People still live remotely and there is vaccine hesitancy.

The Congregational Christian Church in Mangere will campaign to get the government’s message out.

Reverend Victor Pouesi says the district health boards and Ministry of Health give the guidelines community organisations need.

“It’s a matter of relaying that message down to the grass root level in terms of not only translation, but to make it simple as possible.”

He also says it is necessary to address people’s fears.

“Some of them have information from social media that it's not safe and almost that the government is using them as guinea pigs.”

However, the government says the vaccine is safe and effective.