31 Jul 2020

Measles vaccination campaign set to begin this year

11:05 am on 31 July 2020

A vaccination campaign to plug a gap that leaves the country vulnerable to a deadly measles outbreak will begin this year, the government says.

Dr Richard Hulme holding Measles Vaccine

Dr Richard Hulme holding Measles Vaccine Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

An estimated 500,000 New Zealanders may not be properly immunised, most of them between 15 and 30.

Doctors have warned the young people must be urgently vaccinated to stop another outbreak like last year, where more than 2000 people caught the disease and nearly 800 were hospitalised.

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said 350,000 vaccines had arrived and were ready to go, while $40 million had been set aside to fund the catch-up campaign.

But she revealed few details about how that would be done.

It would be up to district health boards to find and vaccinate the young people because they knew their communities best, she said.

The group was notoriously hard to track down because most were no longer at school and were generally healthy so did not go to the doctor as much as other New Zealanders.

Genter encouraged anyone in the age bracket to contact their GP or pharmacist if they think they may not have been fully vaccinated.

Doctors had been calling for the catch-up for years and said it should not have taken last year's outbreak to make it happen.

A New Zealand case is highly likely to have resulted in the Samoan outbreak in which 83 people, many of them children, died.

The gap in immunisation is largely because of historical problems with vaccination records.

It meant people may not have been contacted to get a second jab needed at the time, or may not have had one at all.

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