30 Aug 2019

National crisis centre set up to combat measles - government

7:47 pm on 30 August 2019

The government is activating a National Health Coordination Centre in response to the measles outbreak.

Watch the announcement:

Julie Anne Genter made the announcement this afternoon, and said the measles outbreak was "not a crisis" but would be a top priority for the health ministry in the coming days.

It comes after the secondary schools' rugby league championship set down for this weekend was cancelled this afternoon, because of the risk to students and schools considering pulling teams.

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said te National Health Coordination Centre would help coordinate the response to the outbreak and monitor the response across the country.

She said it would be based in the Ministry of Health building and allow for more streamlined communication, proving a single point of contact for DHBs - especially those in Auckland.

"As well as other DHBs to more easily provide consistent information and advice across the country."

There will be new outreach centres where people can get free vaccinations at the Free Church of Tonga in Māngere, Middlemore Hospital Department - every day of the week - and the Clendon public nursing office Monday to Friday.

Ms Genter said as of today there had been 762 confirmed cases of measles in the Auckland region this year, but said there was no shortage of the MMR vaccine.

Julie Anne Genter.

Julie Anne Genter (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"Just since March there've been 57,000 additional MMR vaccinations provided, so I think a lot has been done but as I said earlier, this is a global phenomenon - the increase in measles has been three times higher than previous years."

She said the main message was for everyone to get vaccinated, as it was the best way to protect against measles.

"From what I've seen the biggest reason people aren't vaccinated isn't because they're afraid of vaccination it's because of logistical barriers - because they're juggling multiple jobs, they can't get to their GP, they don't have security because of where they're living and so on.

Dr McElnay told Checkpoint the total number of cases had now risen to 914.

She said according to their modelling the outbreak would not reach its peak for another few weeks but the numbers of cases were also a concern.

"We've known that we have had the immunity gap in the older age groups but the MMR vaccine if fully funded and it's freely available through primary care.

"That's the feedback that we're getting in Auckland at the moment ... what we're discovering is actually we do need to look at providing something extra, that primary care isn't going to be accessed by everyone."

At Rowendale School in Manurewa, South Auckland, 170 of its 600 students were away one day last week as there was doubt over their vaccination status.

One staff member is off work with the disease.

Assistant principal Lois Hawley-Simmonds said information from public health had until this week been sadly lacking.

"We had our individual teachers contacting their own immediate medical centres and getting different stories."

She said closing all schools in Auckland for a period could be an option worth considering.

"Would it help? I don't know to be honest, but we have to consider almost all options before we come to that decision."

She said her school was in a self-imposed isolation.

"We have a big sign up at the front of the school on our board - Please note we are asking our agencies not to come in if you are not immunised or just as a precaution."

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