Health officials bump up vax schedule for babies amid Auckland measles outbreak

It's now recommended by health authorities that children in Auckland get their first MMR vaccination at 12 months rather than 15 months, as the region experiences a measles outbreak.

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The initial dose of the vaccine will now be given at 12 months old, three months earlier. Source: 1 NEWS

The recommendation comes from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) and the Ministry of Health.

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The 80 people who were at the Lower Hutt party have been contacted, and the man has been released from hospital. Source: 1 NEWS

This year, there have been 104 cases of measles in Auckland with 43 per cent of those affecting children under the age of five.

ARPHS Clinical Director Dr Julia Peters says, "We have seen a significant number of young babies with measles, many of whom have been hospitalised. Receiving the first dose of MMR at 12 months will increase levels of immunity in the community and provide added protection for these infants."

ARPHS is asking primary care providers to recall all children aged less than five years who have missed out on their MMR vaccination.

"The virus is now spreading around the Auckland region. The only effective way to reduce the impact of measles is to increase vaccination rates in the region," Dr Peters said in a statement.

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It’s thought up to 3000 students could be affected. Source: 1 NEWS

There are no other changes in the vaccination schedule for other parts of New Zealand at this stage.

ARPHS says if children are travelling to countries where there are measle outbreaks they can be vaccinated with MMR as early as six months.

Starship Hospital has welcomed the announcement with nurse Leilani Hipa saying, "The team at Starship Hospital have seen some very unwell children coming in with measles."

"It’s heart-breaking that kids are suffering like this from a preventable illness. Parents, it’s really important you get your children vaccinated so they can avoid catching this horrible virus. Your kids can have the vaccination free of charge at your GP."

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Dr Helen Petousis-Harris talks to Breakfast about why there has been a significant rise in measles cases globally. Source: Breakfast

“What I tell the families I work with is that vaccination is not just for them, it’s for those around them who are vulnerable and are not able to get the vaccination, such as young babies and people undergoing some cancer treatments. Do it for those who can’t," Ms Hipa says.

There’ve been measles cases across the country this year, including 24 in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District, 11 in the wider Wellington region and nine in Northland.

While vaccinations aren’t being brought forward outside of Auckland at this point, Dr Catharine Jackson from Northland District Health Board said "a change to the 15 months immunisation timing will be considered if changes in who is getting sick are seen".

“If parents would like to have their child’s 15 months immunisations early, then they can as long as their child is 12 months old,” she said.

Canterbury brought the vaccination forward to 12 months during its outbreak, which ended last month after 38 confirmed cases.

For more information or advice on measles, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Auckland Regional Public Health Service or Ministry of Health websites.