Reti dis­putes vac­ci­na­tion short­age

The Northland Age - - Local News -

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.

PIC­TURE / FILE

Na­tional MP Shane Reti — North­land kids are miss­ing out.

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