Child death rates: fewer NSW kids are dying, but 23 deaths preventable by vaccination.

By Philippa McDonald.

Child death rates are steadily declining in New South Wales, mainly off the back of improved infant mortality figures.

But it’s not good news for all. Suicide rates for late-teen children remain steady, Indigenous children are dying at twice the rate of others, and in the decade to 2014, 23 children may not have died if they had been vaccinated.

The NSW Child Death Review Team examined 504 deaths, 294 of them relating to babies under the age of one month.

Of those deaths, 33 children died in transport accidents, nine from drowning and eight as a result of being assaulted.

Acting NSW Ombudsman Professor John Mc Millan said while the overall decline in childhood mortality had been significant, there were “still too many preventable deaths”.

Children with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds continue to die at 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

“It is very high, it’s always been very high,” a spokeswoman for the NSW Ombudsman said.

Fifty-nine Indigenous children died in 2015 and the rate of injury-causing death is five times higher than among non-Indigenous children.

The report found “suicide was the leading cause of death for 15 to 17-year-olds, and the mortality rate for this age group in that year was the highest since 1997”.

However, overall child deaths from suicide have remained stable for 20 years, with 26 deaths in 2015 attributed to suicide compared to 25 in 1996.


A spokesman for the NSW Ombudsman said it was significant that the suicide rate had remained constant despite a decline in child deaths overall from other causes.

About one in five children died as a result of injury.

2015 injury-related causes of death for children

More than 20 deaths 'potentially preventable'

Another report covering the decade from 2005 to 2014 examined child deaths in NSW from influenza, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, whooping cough and chicken pox.

"If more has been done in terms of having these children vaccinated the 23 deaths could have been potentially preventable," said Associate Professor Kristine Macartney, the deputy director of the National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

"In the deaths, a third of children had underlying health problems that put them at higher risk of these diseases," she said.

"It's a shared responsibility — doctors, nurses and parents having that discussion about what is a complex vaccine schedule."

Ms Macartney said while there had been a "huge decrease in vaccine-preventable deaths, the largest number of deaths had been from influenza".

"The largest number of deaths were from influenza. Some in the community view influenza as a mild disease but it's not," he said.

Ms Macartney said the most recent recommendations called for pregnant women, Indigenous children and all children under age five with underlying problems to receive the flu vaccine.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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