National | Health

Parents who don’t vaccinate are "pro-plague" – Education Minister

The discussion around vaccination took another high profile turn yesterday, with Education Minister Chris Hipkins saying that parents who aren’t vaccinating their children are "pro-plague".

"Those kids actually are the ones who most deserve to learn about science.  Children shouldn't be excluded from their education because their parents are pro-plague." Hipkins told reporters at the Northland DHB yesterday.

When asked to clarify, Hipkins said "Those people who are anti-vaccination are by definition pro-plague."

Earlier this month, Northland DHB head Dr Nick Chamberlain addressed the issue of children potentially spreading measles and other diseases.

"Once measles has spread, it has a mortality rate of one in 1,000. That is why school children that come into contact with a child with measles must stay home for 14 days after contact," he said in a letter to all principals of Northland schools, after two cases of measles were reported in the previous weeks.

He also stated that there was a 95 percent chance of infection if a child with measles came within one metre of other students.

Chamberlain urged schools to check whether their students had been immunised with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark also echoed Hipkins’ condemnation of the ‘anti-vax’ movement, which is being held responsible for the rise in preventable diseases among children worldwide.

"I do have serious concerns with people who put others at risk, particularly vulnerable members of our community.  The science is very clear about the benefits of vaccination," Clark said.

"We want them all to be in school.  Ultimately, the best protection is vaccination."

"We've got to make sure that DHBs are focused on reaching as many children as possible," says Ardern, "Parents, I just encourage you, please vaccinate your children."