3 Dec 2019

Boy turned down for measles jab before returning to Samoa

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 3 December 2019

A Samoan toddler has been flown back to Apia without being immunised because doctors in Auckland wouldn't give him the necessary jab.

The 15-month-old boy had been visiting New Zealand with his family, and stayed on with his god parents because his mum and dad did not want him returning to Samoa amid the measles outbreak.

But today he flew back with his godfather, Mark Wendt, who says an Auckland clinic refused to immunise the young boy because he didn't have a New Zealand passport.

Mr Wendt said they were worried for the toddler's safety back in Samoa, where 55 people had died from measles - most of them children.

Today he was flying to Apia with his wife and 9-year-old daughter, as well as the 15-month-old boy.

"My daughter's up-to-date [with her immunisations], my godson couldn't have his because he was younger than 15 months when he came over - we wanted to get him immunised here and we tried but we couldn't."

Mr Wendt said the Auckland medical clinic they took the boy to turned him down because he was a Samoan citizen, despite copies of his medical records being available.

He was disappointed in the doctor who turned down their immunisation request, and said while he understood precautions were taken around not immunising a child that wasn't theirs, he felt more could've been done.

"He's right well within the age bracket of those who are dying at the moment - basically he's on home detention when he gets back.

"We've already instructed all of our family to clean up the car when we get back, we'll get him straight into the car and straight home and that's where he'll be until this all blows over."

Director General of Health Ashlee Bloomfield said children under 18 were eligible for publicly-funded immunisations, regardless of citizenship or immigration status in New Zealand.

Dr Bloomfield said it was possible some medical clinics weren't aware the immunisations were available to eligible visitors to New Zealand, and the Ministry would be reiterating that message.

"We will make sure we do a follow-up on that."

He said anyone flying to Samoa with children should consider delaying their travel.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa.

A live coldchain vaccine delivery of MMR in Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

"My strong advice would be, at this point in time, if you can defer any travel to Samoa until this measles outbreak there is under control."

"There's quite clearly a very large outbreak, the last thing we want to do is add to the problem in Samoa, and of course we're also seeing the odd case now coming back into New Zealand from Samoa."

He said while being immunised significantly reduced the risk of contracting measles, in communities with a high prevalence of the illness, even fully vaccinated people could still get sick.

Dr Bloomfield said New Zealand's first measles cases had been imported from the Philippines, and it was likely New Zealand had passed it on to Samoa.

He said American Samoa and Tokelau required people to show proof of vaccination against measles to be allowed to enter the country, and people should consult the Safe Travel website for the latest information for other countries.