8 May 2019

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says anti-vaxxer parents are 'pro-plague'

4:27 pm on 8 May 2019

The education minister doesn't think children shouldn't miss out on school just because their parents are what he calls "pro-plague".

Caucas run

Education Minister Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Northland DHB has suggested unvaccinated children stay home from school for the next two weeks, after two known cases of measles have been discovered.

Northland has the lowest immunisation rate in the country at 85 percent.

Chris Hipkins said the DHB should be stepping up to ensure the region has sufficient immunisation levels.

"Clearly there is an issue there that the DHB needs to address, they are responsible for that.

"I don't believe that kids should be denied their right to an education, particularly if it's a conscious choice by their parents not to immunise", he said.

He said he uses the term 'pro-plague' for anti-vaxxers because that's what they are.

"It is a statement of fact.

"It is a ridiculous position, it is not based on science, there are very good reasons why we require a certain level of the population to be immunised, so that we're not susceptible to massive outbreaks."

David Clark

Health Minister David Clark Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Health Minister David Clark wouldn't go so far as to use the term 'pro-plague' but said anti-vaxxers needed to be challenged.

"I do have serious concerns with people who put others at risk.

"The science is very clear about the benefits of vaccination and some of these diseases are deadly and have life altering consequences.

"I'm encouraging everyone to check that their immunisation schedule is up to date", he said.

The total number of cases of the highly infectious, but preventable disease for New Zealand this year is now more than 100, with most of them in Canterbury and Auckland.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that can lead to serious health complications - including infections of the lungs and brain - and is sometimes fatal. It is easily spread through breathing, coughing and sneezing, but can also spread before the infected person feels sick or shows symptoms.

Symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes.

A rash also appears on the face and neck a few days later, and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Anyone who thought they had measles should call their doctor or Healthline before turning up to a waiting room.

In New Zealand, the MMR vaccine is routinely given to children at 15 months and four years old.

Those with measles can potentially infect up to 15 others if they are not immune and parents should also check their child has had the appropriate MMR vaccine.

Adults under 50 years who have not had even one MMR dose should also get their free vaccination from their GP.

Those over 50 are considered immune as the disease was widespread in childhood, according to the the public health service.

One MMR vaccine dose protected about 95 percent of the population, with a second dose protecting close to 99 percent.

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