Gloriavale left in jab plan

By Laura Mills

The Ministry of Health says it will not adjust immunisation targets for the West Coast, even though the ever-growing Gloriavale Christian Community refuses to immunise its children.
The religious sect, now numbering over 400, lives communally on the shores of Lake Haupiri, inland from Nelson Creek.
During the recent whooping cough epidemic on the Coast, members wore face masks during their visits to Greymouth.
Gloriavale members promote breast-feeding as a way of boosting their children’s immune systems, but reject vaccinations.
At the 2006 census Gloriavale had a population of 378.
Despite growth at the commune, the overall vaccination rate on the West Coast fell to 79% for eight-month-old babies in the last quarter, the worst figure in the country.
Ministry of Health chief adviser child and youth health Pat Tuohy said the ministry was aware of the high decline (opt out) rates on the West Coast and was working with the West Coast District Health Board to help it achieve the immunisation health target.
“There are similar communities throughout New Zealand so it would be unfair to single out the West Coast in terms of removing them from the DHB’s statistical denominator,” he said.
The Ministry of Health advocated immunisation as the best way to protect children against vaccine preventable diseases, but it was aware that Gloriavale worked hard to ensure their families’ health and well-being in other ways.
DHB chairman Paul McCormack said a Greymouth GP had told him that Gloriavale took a lot of responsibility by ensuring visitors wore masks.
“We should not demonise them,” he said at the board meeting on Friday.
Chief executive David Meates said it was “always a conundrum”.
“They are approaching health in a different way but achieving good results. They are as healthy and well as we could hope.”
Deputy chairman Peter Ballantyne said the minister was aware of Gloriavale’s attitude to immunisation but was not prepared to adjust the targets.