20 Apr 2019

Lower vaccination rates leave Northland people 'extremely exposed'

12:50 pm on 20 April 2019

Northland's DHB is warning the region is wide open for a measles outbreak during the school holidays.

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Photo: 123RF

Immunisation rates in the region fell after an anti-vaccination film was screened there last year, said the DHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain.

Previously more than 90 per cent of Northland children were vaccinated against infectious diseases, but that has now dropped to 86 per cent.

Northland DHB Chief Executive Nick Chamberlain is warning vaccination numbers are falling in the area.

Dr Nick Chamberlain Photo: Supplied

Dr Chamberlain said Northland is extremely vulnerable to the spread of measles because of the low vaccination rate. And there is a high risk children from other areas suffering outbreaks of measles will bring the disease north with them during the holidays.

"We're fortunate - we haven't had a case in Northland yet.

"But if we do, with our low vaccination rates - and they are lower than the rest of the country ...we're extremely exposed."

There had also been a poor uptake of vaccine for the new meningococcal strain, he said.

Only about 63 per cent of eligible children have had their free shots.

Both measles and meningitis are serious diseases, and both can be fatal. Vaccinations help to stop the diseases by building herd immunity - a population that is largely immune - meaning fewer people can pass the disease on to others.

Children should be immunised on time, to prevent measles, with two free MMR vaccines (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), available for all children at 15 months and four years old, the DHB said.

Two doses of MMR vaccine are at least 97 percent effective in preventing measles.

Vaccines against the new Meningitis W strain are being offered free in Northland for children from nine months to under five years, and young people aged 13 to 20 years old, till the end of April.

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