4 Feb 2019

MP challenges govt to vaccinate all Northland children against deadly disease

3:30 pm on 4 February 2019

National MP Shane Reti says the government should pay for every child in Northland to be vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

Vaccination injection.

Northland DHB has been funded by the Ministry of Health to offer free meningococcal W shots to the under-fives and teenagers. Photo: 123RF

Northland DHB has been funded by the Ministry of Health to offer free shots to the under-fives and teenagers, the age-groups most at risk from the deadly new W strain of the illness.

Dr Reti - the MP for Whangarei - said that left 20,000 five-to-12-year-olds ineligible for the free shots, although vaccinating them would cost just $700,000.

"The Prime Minister is in Northland today spraying money across a range of ventures; I think she needs to explain to Northland parents why that would not be good value," he said.

One of the two Northland children who died of the new meningococcal strain last year (before the vaccination programme) was seven, putting her in the age group not eligible for the free shots, Dr Reti said.

National MP Shane Reti.

National MP Dr Shane Reti. Photo: Supplied / National Party

"I've had a lot of parents contact me saying they are desperate to vaccinate their kids abut can't afford the $110 cost of going private," he said.

"I had one Mum with two kids in that age group and she couldn't afford two vaccinations. She couldn't bring herself to choose which child to protect."

While the Ministry of Health had specifically recommended vaccinations for the high-risk age groups, it had also recommended all children be protected from the W-strain, Dr Reti said.

"When the outbreak was declared, on November the 8th, it was declared on the basis that there were enough under-10-year-olds in Northland to trigger the criteria for an outbreak.

"Why then do we stop vaccinating at four? It can only be about the money."

Northland DHB said more than 50 percent of the children and young people eligible for the free shots had been vaccinated since the emergency programme began in December.

"We are now getting back into it, with nurses going into schools this week, and Maori Health providers up at Waitangi to offer vaccinations," a spokesperson said.

Having more than half the high-risk cohorts immunised gave everyone in the community more protection, but the goal was to lift that rate to 75 or 80 percent, she said.

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