Community, Health

Plugging the measles vaccination gap

Nelson Marlborough Health is ramping up efforts to find young people in the region who may have missed out on the measles vaccine.

According to the health board’s data there are 8500 people between the ages of 15 and 30 across the Top of the South, however it’s not clear how many of them are still needing to get vaccinated for the disease.

“There are many people in that age group that missed out on those childhood vaccinations for a whole lot of different reasons,” says associate director of nursing Jill Clendon. “They have slipped through the gaps.”

So, the health board is instead advocating anyone in that age group who is unsure if they had the MMR vaccine to come in, just in case.

“We would rather have people get it than miss out,” Jills says. “If you don’t know, it’s best to get immunised. It’s safe to have an extra dose of the vaccine.”

The vaccine is free and protects and measles, mumps and rubella. Last year, 2000 Kiwis got sick from measles and 700 of them needed to be hospitalised.

The symptoms of measles start with little white spots in the mouth which develops into respiratory illness. But the consequences can be serious as it can cause swilling on the brain and other conditions that can be fatal.

“We are targeting everybody,” Jill says.

She says that measles is highly contagious. If you have one person that catches the disease they will likely spread it to 12-18 others. Covid-19, on the other hand, will only be spread to an average of two people.

Jill says we need 95 percent of people to be immune to reach ‘community immunity’, sometimes known as ‘herd immunity’ and help stop future outbreaks.

“It’s a challenge. It’s really hard to engage people in this age group. Getting them in the doors is really tough. But the vaccine is free and easy and is going to be protecting not only yourself but your mates.”

It is available at GP clinics, at pharmacies, schools and at pop up clinics around the region. Health staff will also be going into some businesses to administer the vaccine. For more information head to

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