New study shines spotlight on what stops New Zealand parents vaccinating their children

Negative talk about vaccines has a real effect when it comes to New Zealanders getting their children vaccinated, according to the new report out today.

Your playlist will load after this ad

Professor Gail Pacheco talks about a new report into ethnic differences in accessing child healthcare. Source: Breakfast

People are 15 per cent less likely to immunise their children in their first year of life if they are discouraged, according to the report.

The report, Ethnic Differences in the use and Experience of Child Healthcare Services in NZ, uses data from longitudinal study Growing up in New Zealand, which follows 6000 children from birth until the age of four, and their parents.

It found that Asian and Pasifika are more likely to immunise their children for their 15-month and four-year-old immunisations compared with New Zealand European and Māori. The only time point at which Pasifika had lower immunisation rates relative to NZ Europeans was in getting all first-year immunisations on time.

Socio-economic status also appeared to be strongly associated with timely immunisation in a child’s first year, but was not significant for later immunisations.

One of the study’s authors, Professor Gail Pacheco at AUT's Business School, told Breakfast that relationships had a strong impact on the decision-making process for parents accessing healthcare for their children.

“If you were discouraged, then you were 15 per centage points less likely to have immunised your child in the first year,” she said.

Pacheco said the strongest impact was being discouraged by family, followed by health professionals, friends and media.

“There’s power of those personal relationships, and power, also, of those institutional interactions with the health system.”

Pacheco said while the report revealed a disconnect Māori and other ethnicities have to accessing healthcare, it also found that “encouragement has a positive impact, and the strongest impact was from health professionals”.

“We need to make sure that there’s greater awareness, there’s more encouragement through those interactions. We also need to think about ways again to reduce discrimination.”

She said the researchers found that perceived discrimination “has a strong negative effect in terms of the ways people use their GP and whether they feel satisfied, and we know that satisfaction is necessary for us to trust the health system.”

Pacheco said the findings “highlights the importance of those personal relationships, as well as those institutional interactions”.

Researchers will be following up their findings with more qualitative data on how parents are being discouraged “and the mechanisms behind that”.