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Lauren Spence - 2022 ASM New Investigator Award winner

A research paper comparing the immunisation status of tamariki aged under two (March 2018 versus March 2021) presenting to Kidz First Emergency Care at Middlemore Hospital has won Lauren Spence the Paediatric Society’s New Investigator Award. The award, sponsored by Glaxo SmithKline, was presented on 3 November at the Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in New Plymouth.

Lauren (Ngāpuhi) a PGY2 House Officer originally from Auckland is currently a junior doctor working at Starship Children’s Hospital. She holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) from the University of Auckland in 2020 and recently completed her postgraduate Diploma in Paediatrics from The University of Auckland in November 2022.

The research paper – a comparative audit – what is the immunisation status of patients under 24 months of age presenting to Kidz First Emergency Care and Middlemore Hospital (March 2018 versus March 2021) and what action is taken as emergency care? The primary aim of the research was to compare immunisation status of patients under 24 months of age presenting to Kidz First Emergency Care in March 2018 to the immunisation status of patients under 24 months of age presenting to Kidz First Emergency Care in March 2021. This is due to concerns of immunisation uptake being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks and inequitable impacts on tamariki Māori. The secondary aim was to identify if children who are not up to date with their immunisations are recognised as not being up to date by Kidz First Emergency Care and if further action is taken by EC.

The primary findings were - a statistically significant increase in the number of children under two years of age not up to date with immunisations upon presentation to Kidz First Emergency Care when comparing March 2018 versus March 2021. From this it can be inferred that COVID-19 lockdowns are likely to have disrupted scheduled childhood immunisations in the Counties Manukau region. Furthermore New Zealand Māori children have been disproportionately affected by this decline in immunisation uptake- with statistically significant inequity when comparing to New Zealand European ethnic group. Future health policies concerning the Counties Manukau region should be targeted at improving immunisation rates across all ethnic groups with particular focus on Māori.

Next year Lauren is intending to locum in emergency departments around rural New Zealand and Australia followed by travelling Europe and South-East Asia. Lauren intends to start paediatric or dual emergency medicine / paediatric training upon returning to New Zealand and to partake in part-time research.

Lauren feels incredibly fortunate and pleased to have won this award and is hopeful that the results of the audit will provoke change for some of our nation’s most vulnerable tamariki.

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