6 Sep 2019

Government criticised by South Auckland doctor over measles response

11:32 am on 6 September 2019

Public health officials need to make sure Auckland GPs are kept stocked with measles vaccinations, a Papakura doctor says.

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Photo: AFP

Cases of measles nationally reached 1051 yesterday, the majority being in Auckland.

Papakura GP Jacqueline Allan's practice has only seven vaccines left - of which they were saving for babies yet to be immunised - and has been told by the supplier it is not sure when more are coming.

"Not only were there no vaccinations, they wouldn't be put on back order because ProPharma, the one group we're allowed to get vaccinations off and who obviously have the government contract, they don't know when they will be sourcing any more.

"So, yesterday we were turning away a number of people who wanted to be vaccinated.

"Normally, if they don't have them instantly in supply, they say, 'We'll put them on back order and ring back next Tuesday'. We were told to ring back next week and maybe they'd be able to source some more."

When asked by Morning Report about oversupply in other areas being sent to those in need, Dr Allan said that would be good.

"But that involves some sensible planning by the public health officials responsible for this.

"We're constrained with this enormous number of rules and the public health officials are going on about GPs not vaccinating and GPs not doing the job."

Dr Allan said only last Thursday were they given the all clear to immunise the 29 to 51-year-old age group - a sign of a slow response by health officials.

She said underfunding for general practitioners was also a contributing factor, meaning many did not have practice nurses to give out vaccinations.

"Many practices these days don't have practice nurses because they can't afford it - and they really can't because general practices are underfunded. And yet they go as if we're not doing our job."

But Ministry of Health said at 8.30am on Friday morning, around 35,000 doses of the MMR vaccine remained in the national and regional stores.

An extra 52,000 vaccines would arrive in New Zealand at the end of next week and Pharmac was in talks with suppliers to secure even more MMR vaccines.

Orders for around 36,000 doses had been filled so far this week - that was what New Zealand normally went through in three months, going out in four days, the ministry said.

These were unprecedented numbers of orders for the MMR vaccine, it said, adding that more than two thirds of the MMR vaccines distributed this week had gone to health providers in Auckland.

Meanwhile, the National Party has criticised the government's response.

National's associate health spokesperson Shane Reti told Morning Report allowing pharmacists to give the measles vaccine and having more school and work-based clinics, would help.

"The only reason they can't give the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is because they're not reimbursed for it. It's 30 seconds of policy."

He said the only fix for the outbreak was to have more people vaccinated, and more people able to administer the vaccines.

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