Health Minister urges people to get vaccinated amidst measles outbreak

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Thursday, 14 March 2019, 10:56a.m.
He urged people to go and get vaccinated if they had never had a vaccine, particularly if they are between 12 months and 28 years old.

Health Minister David Clark is urging people to get vaccinated following a number of measles cases in Auckland, Canterbury and Dunedin.

Aucklanders are being told to be alert to possible measles symptoms with two cases identified in the region this month.

This comes as Canterbury struggles to contain an outbreak which has already seen at least 27 people infected by the highly contagious and dangerous disease. Another two cases have been reported in Dunedin with authorities working to track down the 30 people that came into contact with them.

The Health Minister told Mike Hosking people are also being urged to stay away from Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend if they feel sick.

"The cases in Dunedin are connected to the Canterbury cases. The DHBs are doing the right thing in terms of containing the situation and trying to ensure there is no contact with people who are known to have the virus."

David Clark said there are a number of things people can do to protect themselves.

"Measles is one of the most highly contagious viruses out there. If you walk within two metres of somebody with the virus there's something like a 90 per cent chance you will catch it if you're not immunised."

Clark said this highlights the importance of people making sure they are vaccinated.

"It's a real message and a real warning for those that haven't kept up, that they really do need to go and get vaccinated."

He also gave reassurances that there are enough vaccines and there are processes in place to deal with the outbreak.

"We, fortunately, had 60,000 doses in the country before this outbreak. Then we have 55,000 more doses coming in April."

"The real constraining point is how many people you can vaccinate in a day, just by having the number if GPs but they have processes in place to deal with this outbreak, it's what public health experts do," he said.

"I'm confident that they are doing all they can to get people vaccinated as quickly as they can."

He urged people to go and get vaccinated if they had never had a vaccine, particularly if they are between 12 months and 28 years old.

Clark said New Zealand has a "small but vocal" anti-vaccination presence, which presents real challenges.

"I worry most about the children because they shouldn't be, in my view, discriminated on the basis of the decisions of their parents."

"How do we try and make sure these people are educated to understand the benefits of vaccines because there is no credible science that supports anti-vaxxers claims."

However, he said banning unvaccinated children from schools isn't the way to go because it's punishing the children for their parents' actions.

What do I do if I haven't been immunised against measles?

You can be immunised at any time if you have missed your two vaccinations. Many adolescents aren't fully protected, and many people born after 1969 and before 1992 will have received only one MMR vaccine. These people are entitled to the second MMR dose free of charge. Practice nurse fees may apply.

Is measles a current concern?

Yes. There are currently measles outbreaks all over the world, including here in New Zealand. There has been one case in Auckland and there are currently a number of cases in Canterbury.

How serious is measles?

Measles is a serious illness. One in 10 people with measles need hospital treatment and the most serious cases can result in deafness or swelling of the brain.

Measles is one of the most infectious airborne diseases and a person is contagious before the rash appears. It is very easily transmitted from one person to another, possibly by being in a room where an infected person has been.

I'm about to travel to a country that has a measles outbreak. What should I do?

The Ministry of Health is advising anyone travelling overseas to be up to date with their MMR vaccinations. In addition, the Ministry recommends that infants aged 6-15 months travelling to countries where there is a current measles outbreak be given MMR vaccine before they travel. This is an additional vaccination for those infants – they will still need their usual MMR vaccinations at 15 months and four years old.

What are the symptoms of measles?

Measles symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes, followed by a rash starting behind the ears and spreading to the body a few days later.

How can I protect myself and my family against measles?

The best way to prevent measles is to be immunised on time, with two free MMR vaccinations for all children at 15 months and four years. Two doses of MMR vaccine are at least 97 per cent effective in preventing measles.

What does MMR stand for?

MMR stands for measles, mumps and rubella, as the MMR vaccine provides protection against all three of these illnesses.

What do I do if I've only had one of the two MMR vaccine doses?

If you've only had one dose, you are entitled to a second one free of charge. Practice nurse fees may apply.

I don't know whether I've been immunised or not. What should I do?

If you are not sure how many doses you have had, talk to your doctor as the information may be in your medical records. You may also have your own health records e.g. your Plunket or Well Child/Tamariki Ora book. If it's unclear whether you are immune, or whether you've had two doses, vaccination is recommended. Check with your GP first as in some instances, such as pregnancy, you should not be immunised.

If I've been in contact with someone with measles, how long will it be before I know if I've caught it?

It usually takes 10 to 14 days for someone who has caught measles to start showing symptoms.

Are there sufficient supplies of MMR vaccine?

Auckland Regional Public Health Service isn't aware of any vaccine supply concerns for the Auckland region.

Where can I seek advice or find out more about measles?

For more information or advice on measles, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Ministry of Health's measles page.

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