Migrants may have immunization disparities relative to the host population due to challenges to getting immunizations in their home countries while migrating and/or post-arrival. In this research, researchers looked at vaccination rates among migrant and non-migrant children in New Zealand (NZ). Statistic NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure was used to analyze linked de-identified data from multiple government sources from 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2015. Vaccination rates were compared across three cohorts of children aged up to five years: foreign-born children who moved to New Zealand, children born in New Zealand to migrant mothers, and a non-migrant mother control group.
Less than half of foreign-born children (46%), compared to 95% and 96% of migrant and non-migrant NZ-born children, respectively, had a record in the NZ National Immunization Register. When compared to NZ-born children, foreign-born migrant children had lower age-appropriate reported immunization rates by vaccine of interest, ethnicity, and visa type. Migrant children of Pacific origin had lower reported coverage than children of other ethnicities. High percentages of not being immunized at the proper age were seen among foreign-born children on refugee, Pacific, and humanitarian visa schemes. This study identifies potential data gaps in immunization, notably in tracking immunizations administered overseas to foreign-born children, as well as potential obstacles in migrant children’s participation with immunization services.
However, the findings demonstrate the successful inclusion of quota refugee children in New Zealand’s refugee orientation program. Monitoring vaccination coverage by migrant and refugee background is critical for informing policy and practice changes for broader population health benefits.