Health board move to prevent measles outbreak

Hundreds of young people at risk of a potentially deadly disease are being given a second chance to protect themselves.

Nelson Marlborough District Health is set to launch a $200,000 Measles Catch Up campaign in a bid to cut the number of people not immunised.

And health bosses hope the move will reduce the risk of a community outbreak.

In the wake of a national outbreak last year, the government announced a $23 million bid to vaccinate those aged between 15 and 29 years old across New Zealand.

General manager strategy, primary and community, Nelson Marlborough Health Cathy O’Malley says the focus is on those who may have missed out.

Cathy O’Malley wants to see people who have missed out on their MMR to be vaccinated. Photo: Supplied.
Cathy O’Malley wants to see people who have missed out on their MMR to be vaccinated. Photo: Supplied.

“Ministry is now focusing on the immunity gap in adolescents and young adults aged between 15-and 30-years old, a cohort born before the National Immunisation Register (NIR) was established.

“This gap primarily affects Māori and Pasifika peoples in this age group who we want to reach by removing barriers to accessing immunisation and raising awareness,” she says.

The cost of the campaign includes two part-time fixed-term positions, advertising, public health nursing (school outreach), community immunisation clinics and outreach to Maori and Pasifika people in that age group.

General Practitioners will start contacting patients in the middle of next month as the campaign gets underway.

The move will help reduce the risk of future measles outbreaks, Cathy says.

Ministry of Health figures for the year up to 31 March 2020 show the number of eligible children who have had all their age appropriate immunisations is at 79.9 per cent across Nelson and Marlborough.

In Nelson Marlborough there were 1485 eligible babies, of which 1186 were vaccinated.

“MMR is the best protection against these serious diseases – measles, mumps and rubella.

“We can’t yet immunise against COVID-19, but we can protect against other serious diseases,” Cathy says.

Staff will try to determine whether a person is unvaccinated and eligible for other vaccines and administering them at the same time, with the person’s consent.

But anyone who is eligible need not wait, she says.

“We encourage any young person in this age group to get their free immunisation at any time – they don’t have to wait for the campaign to start.

“You can get immunised for free by your family doctor (GP), at an after-hours medical centre or at a participating pharmacy.

“Nationally as well as locally we need to encourage this group to get vaccinated in order to reduce the risk of future measles outbreaks.”

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