The Southern District Health Board says it is prioritising measles vaccines for children and people who have been exposed to the virus.
The Southern District Health Board is prioritising measles vaccines for children and people who have come into contact with the virus.
On Monday Clutha-Southland Mp Hamish Walker criticised the Government’s response to the outbreak and the shortage of vaccines in the region, saying it had failed to protect anyone south of Auckland from the disease.
On Tuesday, he wrote to the Minister of Health David Clark requesting more MMR vaccines for the southern district.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Jack said a limited number of vaccines meant the DHB was prioritising them in a way that maintains the integrity of the immunisation schedule and reaches those most at-risk of contracting and further spreading the disease.
* Aussie advisory issued as Southern measles epidemic continues
* University of Otago student contracts measles, prompting health warning
* Southern District Health Board is urging greater immunisation awareness in the region
“Our priority is making sure the children remain up to date with the immunisation schedule. This means we have asked GPs to prioritise children having their vaccinations as usual (at 15 months and 4 years for MMR), including any catch up immunisations required for children who haven’t yet had their immunisations on time.
This was important both to protect these children and to help prevent a similar outbreak, which has been the result of low vaccination rates across the population, occurring again in the future, she said.
“We are also prioritising close contacts of those who have been diagnosed with measles who we can reach within 72 hours of exposure and whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed. Close contacts are also asked to isolate themselves during any potential infectious period as a further means of preventing the spread of the illness.”
The DHB was unable to say how many people were on waiting lists to receive vaccines, how long they were waiting or how many vaccines it had received from the Government.
General practices manage the demand for vaccines beyond the priority groups differently, Jack said.
“Some may be maintaining a waiting list, while others may be advising their patients to check back later once the present demand and prioritisation has eased.”
The SDHB said in a press release last week that there were now 66 confirmed cases of measles in Otago and Southland, including 19 new cases notified last week.
Ministry of Health say there are 1808 confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand. Of those, 1471 confirmed cases are in Auckland.