Doctors call for national measles vaccine plan
Top doctors in Waikato and Northland are calling for a national immunisation programme against measles urgently. Measles cases continue to climb in Auckland, with an extra eight announced yesterday alone taking the total for the region so far this year to 812.
On Auckland’s southern border, the large Waikato District Health Board has had seven new confirmed cases of measles in the past two weeks.
Its medical officer of health, Richard Hoskins, said that had put all health authorities in Waikato from health centres to hospitals - on high alert.
“We know at least six of the seven confirmed cases we’ve got here are of the outbreak strains which are circulating in Auckland and ... for one of those basically it was an Aucklander who had been living here at the time and had definitely been exposed in Auckland.” Dr Hoskins said such spread of measles was inevitable given major gaps in immunity against measles in Waikato, notably among those aged 14 to 37, many of whom had not had the MMR vaccine.
He said one in five people in that age group were not immune to
measles, and an immunisation programme was needed to change that. “So I would start in Auckland if I couldn’t do it everywhere at the same time. And then I would roll it out, as able, across the country starting with the big urban centres and finishing off with the smaller DHBs [district health boards].” The Health Ministry said it was considering a national immunisation campaign, among a range of options, to protect those aged 15 to 29 and others. It could not give a time frame for a decision, but Dr Hoskins said action was needed before now.
“Well we wouldn’t be in the situation now in Auckland if it had been taken six months ago, or two years ago.”
Meanwhile north of Auckland, Northland also has lower immunity. The region’s medical officer of health, Catherine Jackson, said they needed to do more but it was an uphill struggle.
As in Waikato, measles cases in Northland are coming from Auckland. Dr Jackson said New Zealand - with a population of less than five million - had almost as many cases of measles this year as the United States, which has a population of more than 327 million.