Wait for vac­cine goes on

As cases con­tinue to emerge in North­land, no one can say when crit­i­cal measles shots will be avail­able

The Northern Advocate - - Front Page - Im­ran Ali

Gen­eral med­i­cal prac­tices in North­land have run out of measles vac­ci­na­tion, mak­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble while the Min­istry of Health de­cides which ar­eas should be pri­ori­tised.

Frus­trated GPs are call­ing on the min­istry to ex­pe­dite the re­lease of more MMR vac­cines given the fact a fur­ther five cases of measles were

con­firmed in North­land on Tues­day, tak­ing the to­tal to 40 so far.

A fur­ther seven cases are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The min­istry is re­dis­tribut­ing the vac­cine with a fo­cus on Auck­land, where an epi­demic has been de­clared af­ter 959 con­firmed cases of measles as of Tues­day.

It did not re­spond by edi­tion time on when the next dose of vac­cine would be made avail­able to North­land GPs.

Te Hiku Hauora runs two GP clin­ics in Kaitaia and one at Coop­ers Beach look­ing af­ter 13,600 pa­tients. It ran out of MMR vac­cine more than a week ago.

“The min­istry has put supplies on hold un­til it de­cides how to pri­ori­tise the vac­cine. We’re not happy. Chil­dren who are due to be vac­ci­nated at 15 months, who should be pro­tected, can’t be be­cause there’s no vac­cine avail­able,” prac­tice man­ager Ch­eryl Brit­ton said.

She said one of her nurses con­tacted the North­land Dis­trict Health Board which sent an email, in­quir­ing about stock lev­els with­out con­firm­ing when supplies were com­ing.

Dr Con­lin Locke, of Rau­manga Med­i­cal Cen­tre in Whanga¯rei, said an ab­sence of the vac­cine was frus­trat­ing be­cause his staff spent time or­gan­is­ing vac­ci­na­tion ap­point­ments, then cancelling them.

“With the meningo­coc­cal last year, you’d think the min­istry would sort out the measles vac­cine.

“There are a lot of fam­i­lies who walk to med­i­cal prac­tices so ac­cess is a ma­jor is­sue in terms of im­mu­ni­sa­tion.

“We as­sume the min­istry is putting

the vac­cines in most im­por­tant places. We can’t even im­mu­nise 15-month-olds who are miss­ing out on their nor­mal MMRs.”

Locke said his clinic fielded 10 to 15 calls daily from peo­ple want­ing ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about measles or try­ing to make ap­point­ments for MMR vac­ci­na­tion.

He had seen pa­tients who dis­played measles symp­toms in the clinic carpark as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure.

“With low rates of im­mu­ni­sa­tion, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore Whanga¯rei has more measles cases. If peo­ple get measles, then there are lots of com­pli­ca­tions as­so­ci­ated with it.”

Locke said the min­istry needed to sort out more supplies of MMR vac­cines quickly or at least talk to GP clin­ics.

We can’t even im­mu­nise 15-month-olds who are miss­ing out on their nor­mal MMRs. Dr Con­lin Locke

A staff mem­ber at Kerik­eri Med­i­cal Cen­tre con­firmed the clinic had run out of measles vac­cine, say­ing the sit­u­a­tion was sim­i­lar through­out New Zealand.

“We’re at the mercy of the Med­i­cal Of­fi­cer of Health.”

She was un­able to say when the next lot of vac­cine would ar­rive.

Whanga¯rei MP and Na­tional’s as­so­ciate spokesman for health, Dr Shane Reti, called on the min­istry to put more re­sources into fight­ing measles, in­clud­ing al­low­ing phar­ma­cists to ad­min­is­ter the MMR vac­cine.

“The min­istry should also pro­vide more re­sourc­ing to the DHB so that they can reach out to ru­ral ar­eas of North­land via schools and clin­ics and also to step up work­place vac­ci­na­tions for adults.

“This is look­ing like an­other botched vac­cine re­sponse that the Gov­ern­ment can add to its legacy, in keep­ing with the North­land menin­gi­tis vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign, run­ning out of flu vac­cines in May and now sup­ply prob­lems with the measles vac­cine,” he said.

● Free MMR vac­cine is given at the Child Well­be­ing Hub, 22b Com­merce St in Whanga¯rei, on Tues­days and Thurs­days.

Con­lin Locke

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