Twenty three children who died in NSW in the decade to 2014 could have been saved by a vaccine, research has revealed.
The paper, an updated version of a study on behalf of the NSW Child Death Review Team, examined cases involving a disease for which a vaccine was available between 2005 and 2014.
There were 54 deaths classified as being “definitely or probably” due to those diseases.
The researchers considered that 23 were preventable or potentially preventable by vaccination, with influenza accounting for nearly half of them and meningococcal the cause of five.
“There is scope to reduce child deaths, particularly from influenza, meningococcal B and pertussis,” the study said.
“In particular, increased uptake of currently funded influenza vaccination for children with comorbidities (multiple diseases or disorders), as well as maternal vaccination for influenza and pertussis (whooping cough), may reduce child deaths.”
Fifteen of the deaths might have been prevented by changes to immunisation recommendations that were introduced in August 2016, including maternal vaccination.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said it was important for pregnant women to access information about the safety of maternal vaccines.
“It’s always important to remind us that children still die from diseases that vaccines could easily prevent and we have to do all we can to stop that happening,” she told AAP on Thursday.
Dr Chant said children could be vaccinated after six months of age and urged parents and carers to take up the influenza shot.
“While this study covers deaths, there are also a number of hospitalisations – particularly for the under threes – associated with influenza each year,” Dr Chant added.
The research specifically considered diphtheria, Haemophilus influenzae infection, hepatitis A and B, influenza, measles, meningococcal disease, mumps, pertussis, pneumococcal disease, poliomyelitis, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus and varicella.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said those opposed to vaccinations had to take some responsibility.
“As health minister and a scientist I have to say that people who are anti-vaccination, anti-vaxxers, have no scientific evidence for what they are doing and they are playing with people’s lives,” he told the ABC on Thursday.
Mr Hazzard also pointed out the study covered six years of a Labor government and three years of the coalition government.
He said his party had committed $130 million to vaccination efforts and increased the vaccination rate to nearly 94 per cent.
Last year, the NSW government also banned unvaccinated children from attending daycare centres and introduced a fine of up to $5500 for centre directors who break the rules.