Questions and answers - Immunisation coverage

Questions and answers on immunisation coverage in New Zealand, and how it is measured.

On this page:

  1. What does the immunisation coverage data show?
  2. Why does national immunisation coverage increase from 6 months to 12 months, and then decrease at 18 months?
  3. Why has the Ministry of Health published the immunisation coverage data?
  4. When will the immunisation coverage data be updated?
  5. Who will access and use the immunisation coverage data?
  6. Can my child be identified from the immunisation coverage data?
  7. What does ‘Dep’ mean?
  8. Why does immunisation coverage vary between district health boards (DHBs)?
  9. What is the Ministry doing to help district health boards progress towards achieving the national immunisation coverage target of 95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age?
  10. Why is the immunisation coverage target "95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age"?
  11. Who can I contact for more information about immunisation?

1. What does the immunisation coverage data show?

The immunisation coverage data shows the number of children who have turned the milestone age (eg 6, 8, 24 months and 5 years) during the previous three months nationally and in each district health board.

Of those children who turned the milestone age during the previous three months, the coverage data shows how many received all of their age appropriate immunisations by the time they turned the milestone age.

Table One below indicates the immunisations on the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule included at each milestone age.

Table One: Immunisations included at each milestone age

Milestone Age

National Childhood Immunisation Schedule Visits

6 month

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months

8 month

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months

12 month (1 year)

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months

18 month

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months, 15 months

24 month (2 years)

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months, 15 months

5 years

6 weeks, 3 months, 5 months, 15 months, 4 years

For information on the immunisations offered free to children, go to the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule.

2. Why does national immunisation coverage increase from 6 months to 12 months, and then decrease at 18 months?

The reports for immunisation coverage at 6, 8 and 12 months all report on the same series of three vaccines - those scheduled to be given at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months of age. By age 8 months and 12 months, more children have completed all three vaccines but those receiving them after 6 months of age have received them late.

Reports for immunisation coverage at 18 months and 24 months include a fourth vaccine, scheduled to be given at 15 months of age. The immunisation coverage reported at 18 months will be lower than that at 12 months because some children will not have yet received the ‘15-month’ vaccine.   

An additional vaccine is given at age four years, with coverage measured at five years.

3. Why has the Ministry of Health published the immunisation coverage data?

Publication of the immunisation coverage data allows anyone interested in New Zealand immunisation to monitor immunisation coverage rates. The immunisation coverage data also shows progress towards immunisation health targets and performance measures.

4. When will the immunisation coverage data be updated?

The immunisation coverage data will be updated on the Ministry of Health website every three months.

5. Who will access and use the immunisation coverage data?

Anyone interested in immunisation coverage in New Zealand can access and use the immunisation coverage data on the Ministry website.

For example:

  • DHBs can use the data to evaluate strategies to improve immunisation coverage
  • the public can look at national data and data for their region
  • New Zealand reports on immunisation coverage to international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) as a measure of child health in New Zealand.

6. Can my child be identified from the immunisation coverage data?

No. Children cannot be identified from the immunisation coverage data. The immunisation coverage data only shows the numbers and percentages of children immunised.

To further protect privacy, the reports do not show data where there are less than 10 children in the ‘Number Eligible’ group.

7. What does ‘Dep’ mean?

‘Dep’ stands for deprivation index. The reports show immunisation coverage by level of deprivation.

The deprivation index is the average level of deprivation of people living in an area at a particular point in time, relative to the whole of New Zealand. Deprivation refers to areas (based on New Zealand Census meshblocks) rather than individuals.

Nine indicators are combined to give the deprivation index. The indicators reflect aspects of material and social deprivation.

The nine indicators are:

  • income derived from benefits
  • unemployment
  • low income earning
  • access to car
  • access to telephone
  • single parent families
  • lack of formal educational qualifications
  • level of home ownership
  • living space within a home.

Dep 1-2 are areas with the least deprivation, Dep 9-10 are areas with the most deprivation. In the immunisation coverage reports, the address of the individual is matched to the level of deprivation for that area.

Increasing levels of deprivation are associated with higher mortality rates and higher rates of many diseases (Salmond and Crampton, NZDep2006 Index of Deprivation, 2007).

8. Why does immunisation coverage vary between district health boards?

There are many reasons why immunisation coverage levels vary between district health boards (DHBs), including:

  • the number of children in the DHB, variations in ethnicity, deprivation level, rurality and number of providers
  • different strategies used within DHBs to improve coverage.

All DHBs are working towards achieving the national immunisation coverage target of 95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age.

9. What is the Ministry doing to help DHBs progress towards achieving the national immunisation coverage target of 95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age?

The Ministry and DHBs are working together to improve immunisation coverage in New Zealand and to progress towards the target of 95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age. Every three months, DHBs report to the Ministry on progress towards the immunisation coverage target.

DHBs have each formed an immunisation steering group. Members of the steering group may include:

  • National Immunisation Register (NIR) Administrators
  • Planning and Funding Managers
  • PHO representatives
  • Māori and Pacific health providers
  • Immunisation Coordinators
  • Outreach Immunisation Service providers.

The steering groups meet regularly to develop strategies and implement activities to improve immunisation coverage in their DHB. To contribute to these discussions, Ministry representatives may attend DHB immunisation steering group meetings and regional meetings of DHB NIR Administrators.

The Ministry is developing new resources for health care providers, parents, whānau and care givers to improve understanding about the importance of immunisation.

The Ministry has developed a Four-Point Action Plan: Enrol, Engage, Promote and Monitor, to assist with achieving the immunisation target.

10. Why is the immunisation coverage target ‘95 percent of children fully immunised by eight months of age’?

The immunisation coverage target of 95 percent of children fully immunised is measured by eight months of age to allow for where there is a small delay in vaccination at age five months. The immunisation target of increasing eight month coverage will support early enrolment of infants in general practice and ongoing engagement with primary care and well child services.

High immunisation coverage is important to protect not only the health of your child but to protect the community as well. High immunisation coverage is necessary to eliminate some diseases, or to prevent disease outbreaks.

11. Who can I contact for more information about immunisation?

You can contact the following people or groups:

  • your general practitioner or practice nurse
  • your primary health care provider
  • Public Health Units
  • your Plunket or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse
  • Māori or Pacific healthcare providers eg Kai awhina
  • Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC)
  • phone 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)
  • Immunisation Advisory Centre website
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