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Pictured from left: Michaela Kamo, Shona East holding baby Nathan and Esther Mackay in Tauranga Hospital’s maternity unit.
Michaela Kamo is a familiar face at Tauranga Hospital’s maternity unit. In her role as immunisation advocate and outreach administrator for the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation (PHO), she visits the unit three days a week to meet new mothers and give them information about the benefits of immunising their babies.
‘I’m not a nurse; I come in as a parent,’ Michaela says. ‘I have three children, so I’ve been through the system. I know how busy we all are as parents, and I know how it feels to bring your children in for vaccination.’
Michaela’s role was created two years ago in response to low immunisation rates in the area. There are similar lay advocates in other countries who work to increase immunisation rates in their local communities.
When Michaela visits the ward, she introduces herself to new mothers and gives them pamphlets and resources from the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC). IMAC is a nationwide organisation based at the School of Population Health at The University of Auckland and supported by the Ministry of Health to promote immunisation around the country. Michaela also tells the new mothers about IMAC’s free 0800 phone number and website, which can help with any questions they may have about immunisation.
‘They can read the pamphlets while their babies are asleep, call a phone line or check out the phone and web resources later,’ she says.
Michaela also gives each new mother a fridge magnet that lists the date of their baby’s next immunisation.
‘I get the biggest response from the fridge magnets – mothers find them really helpful,’ Michaela says.
She supports parents through immunising their babies, including making follow-up phone calls and sending text messages, and says that mothers appreciate her visit, particularly if they are first-time mothers.
‘Parents are often grateful that they can access reliable information about immunisation and can talk it through with someone,’ she says.
Michaela used to visit the maternity ward to enrol babies with a GP, but now ward clerks have taken over enrolments. Maternity unit manager Esther Mackay says the system works well, with Michaela talking to parents about immunising their babies and the administration staff member going around the ward every day with a form parents can fill out to register their babies with the local PHO.
Michaela is also part of an outreach immunisation team that vaccinates babies in their own homes. She and another staff member take turns to accompany two vaccinators on home visits.
In addition, Michaela follows up on babies who are not enrolled with a GP – and talks to parents’ groups about immunisation.
‘Part of my advocacy role is to make sure everyone is working together to plug any gaps in the system,’ Michaela says. ‘It’s all about working together well and being more efficient.’
The team approach to immunisation is paying off. For the three months to 31 March 2013, the Bay of Plenty DHB achieved 88 percent immunisation coverage for children aged eight months, exceeding the national target of 85 percent. Chief Executive Phil Cammish says the DHB achieved its results by working closely with PHOs, GPs and practice nurses.