Reti disputes vaccination shortage
Whanga¯rei MP Shane Reti is disputing the Ministry of Health’s claim that only two specific age groups in Northland are being offered free immunisation against meningococcal disease because of a shortage of the vaccine.
Dr Reti said thousands of shots had been available through an Auckland supplier, while many children in Northland were missing out.
“As tens of thousands of holidaymakers continue to flood into Northland’s meningitis outbreak area over the summer, it is concerning that the Government’s vaccination campaign is limited by vaccine stocks when several thousand vaccines were available to GPs a few weeks ago, with the first lot selling out in half a day,” he said.
“New batches of vaccines have continued arriving, and even today GPs can privately purchase the same vaccine the Northland campaign is using. Why are meningitis vaccines available for private purchase in Auckland today, but we are told there are no more vaccines for children in the Northland outbreak region?
“Health Minister David Clark and the Ministry of Health avoided one of the Technical Advisory Group’s recommendations to vaccinate everyone under 20 years. The actual campaign sees Northland children between 5 and 12 years miss out on the vaccine, concerning many parents,” he added.
Dr Reti said Northlanders were being betrayed by the minister, who was saying their children could not be immunised because the vaccine wasn’t available, when in fact thousands were being legitimately sold through a supplier in Auckland.
“It’s not good enough for the minister to hide behind the advisory group’s recommendation of a targeted vaccination coverage when one of the other recommendations was also universal coverage for everyone under 20 years. You don’t get to pick who gets meningitis and who doesn’t. I’ve seen it before as a GP in Northland,” he said.
It was not clear whether the smaller vaccination group was selected based on price. If that was the case, the minister needed to “come clean” on the costs of a targeted campaign compared with universal vaccination in Northland, he said.
“Pharmac and the ministry should have costed out the alternatives, and they now need to put that information out for scrutiny and not hide behind a committee or commercial sensitivities.
“I challenge the minister to fix this delayed and limited campaign by acquiring existing meningitis vaccines and making it available to everyone in Northland under 20 years old,” he concluded.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said Pharmac, which was responsible for sourcing publicly-funded vaccines, had been able to obtain a total of 25,000 doses, enough to vaccinate all the children and young people in Northland who were targeted by the campaign.
Vaccine stock was in short supply globally, and New Zealand had bought the 25,000 doses that were available immediately for the campaign.
A limited supply was available privately, that stock being separate to that purchased by Pharmac for Northland.
The Technical Advisory Group had recommended vaccination as the most appropriate and effective response to the Northland outbreak, and that certain age groups be prioritised if vaccine supplies were limited.
The TAG recommended targeting children under 5 because that was the population that was generally most affected by meningococcal disease. The vaccine could not be given to babies under nine months.
The TAG also recommended targeting teenagers because that age group generally carried the bacterium that caused the disease. Vaccinating that age group would reduce the number of carriers in Northland, and stop the spread of the disease.
National MP Shane Reti — Northland kids are missing out.