Another 9000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine are expected to arrive in Canterbury today after the measles outbreak hit 28 confirmed cases yesterday, and is expected to rise further over coming weeks.
Eighteen-thousand doses of the vaccine arrived in Christchurch from Auckland yesterday. They were being delivered to medical centres where staff are struggling to meet demand because of lack of supplies.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says people aged one to 28 who have never been vaccinated are the target for the vaccines.
"The immediate focus is children between the ages of 12 months and 13 years who have never been immunised," he said.
"GP teams are also focused on providing the vaccine to young adults aged 14 years to 28 years who have never been immunised."
Dr Pink said logistically general practice simply can't vaccinate everyone at once.
"We need to take a systematic approach that targets those most in need. We're focusing on unimmunised children and young adults first up, but over time we will expand access to more groups."
He pointed out that one dose of measles vaccine including MMR protects 95 per cent of people against developing measles.
Dr Pink also said research shows that the vaccines that were delivered from 1969 to 1990 "did indeed afford that age group from 29 to 50 years of age really good immunity".
He said seven cases of the 28 cases in the outbreak have been hospitalised and two of those were in intensive care, but all have since been discharged from hospital.
With more than 100,000 doses needed it could be two months before immunisation can be complete in Canterbury.
Two measles cases were confirmed in Auckland yesterday but authorities say they are not considered linked to the Canterbury outbreak. Dr Pink said measles is not endemic in New Zealand and travellers coming into the country are the likely source of the Auckland cases.
"Measles is a highly infectious virus that can be life threatening. Complications occur in about one in three people, and for them measles can be serious, even fatal," he said.
Anyone with measles needed to be isolated from the time they became ill until five days after the rash appeared.
"People are taking this issue extremely seriously. I'd like to thank the increasing number of people who are staying isolated after being potentially exposed."
The symptoms of measles are a cough or runny nose or conjunctivitis, and a fever above 38.5 C, and a rash.
If you think you may have been exposed to measles or have symptoms, call your general practice first, 24/7. Calls made to general practices after hours will be answered by a nurse who will advise you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen.
More information about measles is available on the Ministry of Health website.