Only 66 young people in Tairāwhiti were vaccinated against measles during the “massive” central government-led immunisation campaign that followed 2019’s national outbreak.
By Local Democracy reporter Alice Angeloni
It represents 0.4 percent of the 18,500 immunisations delivered nationally in the year-long programme that started in July 2020.
No immunisations of this type were delivered to the target group of 15 to 30-year-olds in Tairāwhiti in June, after district health boards in March were told to focus on Covid-19, flu and childhood immunisations.
DHBs have been directed to pick up the catch-up campaign to immunise young adults against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in October 2021.
The Government announced its $40m year-long measles campaign in July last year which was focused on the roughly 300,000 young adults aged between 15 and 30 who were not immune.
It followed the worst measles outbreak in two decades in 2019, when more than 2000 people caught the disease.
Four people with measles visited Tairawhiti during that time, but it didn’t spread to residents.
The Government secured 350,000 doses of the MMR vaccine, but Stuff revealed earlier this month that more than 250,000 of those measles vaccines would expire before they could be used.
At a Hauora Tairāwhiti DHB meeting on Monday, board member Tony Robinson asked how the programme was being delivered to the community.
He said he knew a young adult in the target age group that wasn’t immune to MMR, and wondered how that person was being followed up, or could access the vaccine.
Hauora Tairāwhiti planning and funding group manager Nicola Ehau said anyone who hadn’t received the MMR vaccine should have been followed up by their general practice.
Ministry of Health manager of immunisation Kath Blair said the campaign had been impacted by Covid-19 and the redeployment of DHB staff to support the response.
“During this time, the Ministry and DHBs continue to encourage GPs and participating pharmacists to take every opportunity to offer MMR to the target audience.
“This includes GPs recalling patients who missed having MMR as children, as well as offering MMR when a young adult presents about another matter.”
Some DHBs continued with outreach clinics, workplace and school-based programmes, she said.
The increase in more than 9000 trained and active vaccinators across the country to help with the Covid-19 vaccine programme would give more capacity to deliver other immunisation programmes later in the year, Blair said.
“Our workforce will also be able to apply the experience gained delivering a mass vaccination roll-out to bring to the MMR campaign.
“Measles is highly contagious and can make you very sick, so we urge 15 to 30-year-olds who may have missed their vaccination as a child — or who aren’t sure if they’re immunised — to get immunised.”