Tagata Pasifika

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Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Auckland measles cases should be a warning, expert says

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
The MMR vaccine, which is used to immunise children against measles, mumps and rubella. Photo: Tom Lee/Stuff
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

An immunology expert says two recent measles cases on Auckland’s North Shore should serve as a warning to the public and health authorities.

University of Auckland’s Immunisation Advisory Centre medical director Dr Nikki Turner said child immunisation rates in areas like south Auckland remain in a state of crisis an outbreak could have dire consequences.

“Measles can spread like wildfire,” Turner said. “You only get immunity to it through vaccination, or if you’ve previously contracted it.”

“The problem is our childhood vaccination rates have dropped and a lot of other people didn’t receive their vaccinations when they were younger. So there are some real gaps in the community.”

Figures from the Ministry of Health for the period between July 1 and September 30 last year, showed 65 per cent of children in Counties Manukau were fully vaccinated at 6 months old.

A student at Albany Senior High School tested positive for measles last week prompting the school to close. It is expected to reopen again on Tuesday to all students not isolating.

Te Whatu Ora last week confirmed the source of the virus was someone known to the student who had recently travelled abroad.

A 2019 measles outbreak saw more than 2000 cases recorded nationwide and Turner said many of those who contracted it hadn’t been vaccinated as children.

Last week Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zeakland and Te Aka Whai Ora encouraged anyone who had not been vaccinated to get themselves and their families immunised and announced a special vaccine drive over the weekend.

It included a number of pharmacies and pop-up clinics across the Auckland region, including the Whānau Ora Community Clinic in Papatoetoe and Pasefika Family Health Group in Manurewa.

“When you get community cases like this, what determines whether it spreads or not is how many around someone who has it have been vaccinated, or have had measles,” Turner said.

“So anyone in New Zealand who is under 50 years-of-age needs to ensure they’ve received two doses. And if they are unsure they should get the MMR vaccine from their GP or local pharmacy.”

In January Turner said with such low immunisation levels her biggest concern was another measles outbreak.

Turner said vaccination rates have dropped internationally because of Covid-19 and she said health authorities expect to see outbreaks in a number of countries.

Childhood immunisation includes the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, as well as vaccinations for pertussis (whooping cough), polio, diphtheria, tetanus, rotavirus, influenza and Covid-19, for those who are eligible.

Children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine. The vaccinations are free and the first dose is usually at 12 months, followed by a second at 15 months of age.

“All of these vaccination initiatives are important,” she said.

Turner said while a lot of people are busy in their day-to-day lives and immunising them and their families might not be a top priority, they shouldn’t take measles lightly.

“It’s more contagious than Covid-19.”

Local democracy reporting



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