'We will have deaths': Fears measles outbreak could kill Northland kids

Parents who don't vaccinate their children are "pro-plague" according to the Education Minister.

It comes in the wake of the Northland DHB asking schools to consider excluding children who haven't been vaccinated for measles. There are fears if there is an outbreak, children will die.

Karen Hunt has four children, all immunised, and supports excluding children who aren't immunised from school.

"They're putting other children at risk that are possibly too young to be immunised," she told Newshub. "I'd like to know their reasons for not wanting immunisation."

In fact, most Northland parents Newshub spoke to said the same.

"It's all about protecting the kids," Miriam Tuck said. "Especially if kids haven't been immunised, then they should probably stay away from other kids who could pass it on."

"It's a good choice," another mother said. "It protects all the other children."

But the Education Minister doesn't want children to suffer because of their parents' decision.

"Those people who are anti-vaxxers are pro-plague," Chris Hipkins told media on Wednesday. "It is a ridiculous position. It is not based on science." 

Northland's District Health Board put out a warning to all schools to consider excluding unimmunised children.

CEO Dr Nick Chamberlain said he's "extremely concerned".

"I can't predict how out of control it will get, but certainly with our low vaccination rates and a large number of children that aren't vaccinated, there is a big risk to them." 

The anti-vaxxer movement has a strong presence in Northland. Two years ago, screenings to the controversial documentary Vaxxed sold out. 

The biggest problem for health officials now is that no one has any idea just how many children aren't vaccinated.

"We can't have a measles outbreak in Northland, otherwise we will have deaths. That's my fervent belief," Principal of the Tai Tokerau Principals Association Pat Newman said.

He said most schools don't even know how many or which students aren't immunised.

"If you're not prepared to help out by keeping your child at home, we may have to isolate those groups of children from the other children who are immunised so we don't get a measles outbreak here."

Isolating or excluding unvaccinated students would be an extreme step, and one the Health Minister doesn't want to take - yet.

"I think the children should not be punished for the decisions of their parents," David Clark said. "Those children in particluar need access to science the most."

There has been some good news - on Wednesday Clark confirmed the two people with measles in Northland came from overseas, so they're not related to cases already in the country and have both been contained.


Contact Newshub with your story tips: