New whooping cough figures show the epidemic is not slowing down in the Bay of Plenty but health authorities have finally nailed immunisation targets.
Research showed the number of 8-month-old children receiving immunisation in the Bay of Plenty reached 88 per cent in the first three months of this year. The national target is 85 per cent.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board fell slightly short last quarter with 84 per cent.
The figure is a coup for the board, which has struggled to meet the government-set goal and repeatedly ranked bottom of the heap nationally.
Chief executive Phil Cammish welcomed the news during World Immunisation Week. He said the board worked closely with Primary Health Organisations, GPs and practice nurses to achieve the target. They worked to ensure computer systems were up to date, actioned a Toi Te Ora campaign targeted at Maori parents, and launched a Be Wise: Immunise Tuesday t-shirt campaign where GP practice staff wear campaign t-shirts on Tuesdays.
The national immunisation target was lowered in 2012 from 95 per cent to 85 per cent but the board achieved only 82.7 per cent. Despite this year's achievement, 67 cases of whooping cough were reported to Toi Te Ora Public Health Service for the first three months of this year. The cases added to the 176 Bay of Plenty people diagnosed with the disease last year, when whooping cough reached epidemic levels in New Zealand. Tauranga City councillor Tony Christiansen was diagnosed with the cough two weeks ago, having had it for three.
"It's bloody horrible. What happens is you start coughing, then your throat closes up and you start choking, gasping for air. I wouldn't wish it on anyone." He joined diagnosed councillors Bill Grainger and Rick Curach and all three encouraged immunisation.
Medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack said getting vaccinated was "absolutely key" to stopping whooping cough spread. He said immunisation was not necessarily forever and adults vaccinated as children might not realise they could still pick the cough up and spread it to unimmunised children "so what we are finding in this outbreak is only half the cases manifesting are in adults".
Board GP liaison Joe Bourne said patients were no longer ignorant of immunisation and most people who chose not to vaccinate referred to questionable evidence, often found on the internet.