Northern NSW Health District denies with-holding care to unvaccinated children.
Northern NSW Health District denies with-holding care to unvaccinated children. Warren Lynam

Health district denies refusal of care to unvaccinated kids

MEDICAL professionals have hit back at new research released yesterday that suggest some unvaccinated children are being refused care by health care providers.

Director Public Health for the Northern NSW Local Health District, Paul Corben clarified the NNSWLHD's position on the Australian Child Health Poll's report.

Mr Corben said "the NNSWLHD does not exclude children from receiving care because of their vaccination status" after the report revealed one of six children who are not up-to-date with their vaccines are being refused care by health care providers.

He said any practice to refuse treatment to unvaccinated children is "not supported by professional organisations such as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians."

Lennox Head GP, Daniel Ewald read the report and said it's important to "take the results of this research with a pinch of salt."

"We have to be cautious about over interpreting it," Dr Ewald said.

In particular, he took aim at the numbers of unvaccinated children the report claimed were being refused medical treatment.

Dr Ewald said the report is ambiguous by what it meant by "refused health services" with potential for the definition to include a patient asking for antibiotics when unnecessary.

"We don't know if they were refused a health service in the general practice setting, it could be any range of settings it seems to be completely unspecified," Dr Ewald said.

"(The report) implies that people have been refused health services because they are unvaccinated, there's nothing in the report that I can see that allows you to say it's because they are unvaccinated.

"The other thing to bear in mind was that it was 6% of the unvaccinated group, which comes out at about 0.8% of the population, is being reported (as) refused some service.

"So less than 1% in this slightly biased group of respondents reported this as being an issue and we don't quite know what they meant when they reported that as an issue."

Dr Ewald said it was "deficient" of the researchers to not discuss some of the survey's inconsistencies like the overly high proportions of respondents who said they had "a medical contra indication to vaccinations, which in reality would be way less than 1%."

Furthermore, Dr Ewald questioned the representative, national sample used in the research.

He said "some of the results suggest there is some bias in the report" referencing the report found that 12% of parents said their child couldn't be vaccinated due to a medical exemption.

"We know that there aren't 12% of children who have a medical reason not to be vaccinated," Dr Ewald said.

"That suggests to me that even though they approached a random sample of parents to respond to the survey those that respond may well have been a self-selecting bias group."

Dr Ewald was surprised by "the strength of the respondents' views" around the importance of herd immunity and protect

He said that local GPs in partnership with the North Coast Primary Health Network and the NNSWLHD are dedicated to increasing vaccinations rates across the Northern Rivers.

"We are continuing to work with our general practices and our community to provide accurate information and help keep our north coast communities safe by improving the vaccination rates in some of our towns where the vaccination rates are the lowest in the country," he said.  

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