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 group, now numbering over 400, lives communally on the shores of Lake Haupiri, inland from Nelson Creek.
Gloriavale members promote breast-feeding as a way of boosting their children's immune systems, but reject vaccinations.
Despite growth at the commune, the overall vaccination rate on the West Coast fell to 79 per cent 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 deputy chairman Peter Ballantyne said the minister was aware of Gloriavale's attitude to immunisation but was not prepared to adjust the targets.
- The Greymouth Star