Doc­tors call for na­tional measles vac­cine plan

Fiji Sun - - Aust/nz News -

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.

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