3 Sep 2019

Auckland students prepare for exams amidst measles outbreak

7:30 pm on 3 September 2019

High school principals are worried about the pressure on students preparing for upcoming national exams amidst an escalating measles outbreak in Auckland.

21790139 - writing hands of students at course

Photo: luckybusiness / 123RF

The number of confirmed cases jumps each day in the city, today reaching 812, and students and teachers continue to be quarantined during the outbreak.

As exams loom for high school students, 25 school nurses have to pass their final test to be able to give the MMR vaccine at schools.

They will start giving thousands of doses to students at 34 high schools in South Auckland, starting next week.

Counties Manukau District Health Board is overseeing the programme in its district, which has been hardest hit by the outbreak.

Its general manager for child youth and maternity Carmel Ellis said getting school nurses accredited is part of a strategy to increase immunisation.

"They are not waiting to be accredited which involves them doing a test then an assessment which is done by one of our assessors, then they are all ready to go," Ms Ellis said.

"We are hoping that will all be completed by the end of this week and they'll start to roll out from next Monday."

For some, the vaccines can't come soon enough.

Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Richard Dykes said measles was a huge problem for high schools.

He said some schools have had between five and 10 teachers quarantined and colleagues were feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak.

"Our concern is if this carries on then we're rolling into exam season and what's going to be the impact on that? If we start having to send teachers and students away over that period then it's going to become very problematic.

"Our school like every other school is working very closely with their staff saying 'please get vaccinated' we're saying we know that it's free to get vaccinated but if there's a cost associated with it then we're happy to cover that."

Manurewa School Principal Pete Jones.

Manurewa School principal Pete Jones Photo: RNZ/Rowan Quinn

Public health nurses vaccinated more than 90 students at a pop-up clinic at Manurewa High School today.

Principal Pete Jones said he too was worried for the kids heading into exams.

"That's still a key measure that our success is judged by and so as a principal I'm worried for our kids, the disruption to learning and the effect that's having now and it's only a few weeks before NCEA starts so that's a real concern."

Mr Jones said Manurewa High School was planning to delay mock exams and hold extra study time before NCEA exams begin next term.

Mangere College has 700 students and 50 teachers who are preparing for exams amidst the measles outbreak.

Principal Tom Webb said the school's nurse would be ready to start vaccinating students on campus next week.

"We were really keen to do that because we've been working hard to prevent the impact of any future measles cases."

Mr Webb said about a third of the school's senior students have not had the measles vaccine and they expect 150 would get the jab next week.

Health authorities have warned they expect cases of measles - which can be fatal - to continue to climb for the next two weeks.

The numbers paint a story of the disease's rapid spread.

It's been more than two decades since someone died from measles in New Zealand - the last recorded death was in 1995.

Official figures show 328 people have been admitted to hospital for measles nationwide this year.

Auckland public hospitals say there are 10 measles patients in hospitals in the region, including one critically ill child.

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