Safety as­sur­ance needed

The Northland Age - - Opinion -

The Gov­ern­ment’s be­lated re­sponse to North­land’s meningo­coc­cal out­break is needed but does not al­ter the fact the han­dling so far has been abysmal.

Health Min­is­ter David Clark needs to ex­plain why it took six months for the North­land com­mu­nity to be made aware of the meningo­coc­cal out­break which has re­sulted in three deaths in that time. North­land DHB staff were re­port­edly warned in May to have their chil­dren im­mu­nised against the strain, how­ever.

It is out­ra­geous that in this case pub­lic warn­ings weren’t is­sued for this se­ri­ous out­break sooner, en­sur­ing peo­ple knew what symp­toms to look out for. The North­land DHB’s claim that it ‘didn’t want to alarm peo­ple’ is com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

Its job is to keep peo­ple healthy and in­formed.

The Gov­ern­ment needs to re­as­sure New Zealan­ders that the pub­lic will be made aware of any fu­ture out­breaks sooner and that they will be han­dled more ap­pro­pri­ately. It must also re­as­sure New Zealan­ders that there are suf­fi­cient treat­ments avail­able for out­breaks like this, given the re­ported na­tion­wide short­ages of vi­tal medicines.

The fact is this out­break has un­der­mined that con­fi­dence.

While the vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign will help, lives have been put at risk. Mr Clark needs to as­sure the pub­lic that our health sys­tem is pre­pared and will act ap­pro­pri­ately to min­imise the ef­fect of this or any fu­ture out­breaks. The han­dling of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion would sug­gest oth­er­wise.

■ An emer­gency vac­cine pro­gramme to fight a new strain of the dis­ease in North­land starts next week.

Six peo­ple have died from the strain MenW in the past year, three of them in North­land.

The vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme starts on De­cem­ber 5 at se­lected high schools and com­mu­nity cen­tres across North­land.

Health Min­is­ter David Clark said meningo­coc­cal dis­ease was a ter­ri­ble ill­ness which had af­fected New Zealand in the past.

“In the last few weeks, Phar­mac and the Min­istry of Health have sourced 20,000 doses of the vac­cine which cov­ers the meningo­coc­cal W-strain, as well as strains A, C and Y,” he said.

The vac­ci­na­tion will tar­get peo­ple aged 9 months to 4 years (in­clu­sive), and those aged be­tween 13 and 19 years (in­clu­sive).

Re­cip­i­ents will not have to pay for the vac­cine, but to be el­i­gi­ble they will have to be a North­land res­i­dent.

The cost is com­mer­cially sen­si­tive, but it costs $700,000 to roll out the vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme.

Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of Health Ash­ley Bloom­field said peo­ple as young as 11 months and as old as 61 years had died from MenW, but teenagers were the high­est car­ri­ers of the dis­ease, and un­der 5s were at the high­est risk.

■ Michael Wood­house is the Na­tional Party’s Health spokesman.

"It is out­ra­geous that in this case pub­lic warn­ings weren’t is­sued for this se­ri­ous meningo­coc­cal out­break sooner, en­sur­ing peo­ple knew what symp­toms to look out for."

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.