Huge turnout for Northland meningococcal vaccinations: 'I think people are scared'

8:07 pm on 5 December 2018

Hundreds of people queued up in Northland today where an emergency free vaccination programme is being rolled out to combat a deadly meningococcal outbreak.

Tui Matthews' son Horomona was one of the children in line to get a vaccination.

Tui Matthews' son Horomona was one of the children in line to get a vaccination. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

More than a hundred parents and their children turned up this morning to the Kaitaia clinic, which is serving one of the most isolated communities in the region.

On a typically warm north day a quick burst of traffic breathes life into the main drag of Commerce St in Kaitaia.

In a quiet parking lot - Janet Morunga is sitting in her car waiting for her daughter in law and moko to return from the shops.

Ms Morunga knows first hand the reality of meningococcal.

"We took her to the doctors three times before they realised she had meningococcal."

She said she wanted parents to know what's in the vaccine and about the danger of the disease.

The Northland DHB wants to vaccinate 25,000 children for the Men-W strand in Northland at a number of clinics in the next three weeks.

A worldwide shortage of the vaccine means the doses will be limited to those aged from nine months to four years old and 13 to 19.

Children between the age of 5 and 13 are not being vaccinated - because they're the group less likely to affected by the disease.

But Janet Morunga said life in Kaitaia was tough enough - and she wants all children to have access to the vaccinations.

"How many of these injections are going to be free? - and how much is going to cost everybody else to get that same injection done.

"Some of us can't afford it, not everybody can afford to have this."

This morning at Te Whare Hauora at Kaitaia Hospital there were more than a hundred parents and their children - mostly babies and toddlers - waiting for the clinic to open.

Steph Vinac was there with her daughter Mila.

"I thought I'd get in early but you know there's a big queue ahead of me - I think everybody knows and has been told about this.

"I think people are scared at the minute, I think with the deaths locally everyone's worried."

Tui Matthews and her son Robbie.

Tui Matthews and her son Robbie. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Tui Matthews was also at the clinic - with her three under four-year-olds in tow.

She found out about the vaccinations from social media - and did research on whether she would give her kids vaccinations.

"My main reason (for doing it) was the three deaths we've had in the North - I initially didn't want to go ahead and do it."

Although she'd like to see all Northland children vaccinated - she understands the targeted approach.

"Hopefully when that's out of the road everyone's able to do it for free."

Dr Joel Pirini from Kaitaia Hospital has seen the devastating impacts meningococal has had on the community.

"The ongoing effects as well often we see pictures of the kids who are unwell at the time.

"But the part you don't see is the what happens to those kids the learning, their development, their hearing and all those kinds of things as well."

Dr Pirini said there's a number of symptoms parents could look for and these include a high fever, headaches and stomach infections including vomiting and diarrhoea and pneumonia as well.

And he backs the vaccination roll-out the Northland DHB has set-up.

"I would encourage all the people who live North of Kaitaia to talk to their own clinics - make plan to come down to Kaitaia and have the vaccinations done."

Clinics at Kaitaia Hospital will be in place for the next two weeks - and further clinics across Northland are open for the next three weeks.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs