Leftover Northland meningococcal vaccines could expire

About 8000 leftover meningococcal vaccines intended for urgent use in Northland could be left to expire.

The programme excluded five to 12-year-olds and National says that's a failure of the Ministry of Health (MoH).

After an outbreak of meningococcal W in Northland killed three children under 20 in 2018, children were urgently vaccinated - except those aged five to 13.

Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield was given five options to choose from:

  • Vaccinating 13 to 19 year olds only
  • Under 5s and 13 to 19 year olds
  • Under 5s only
  • All under 20 year olds
  • No immunisation campaign

After those options were given by the expert group, Pharmac was offered tens of thousands more vaccines - enough to vaccinate all Northland children.

Bloomfield knew about this but the advisory group wasn't told.

"We at the ministry did not have any formal advice that there was additional supply," says Dr Caroline McElnay, MoH director of public health.

Bloomfield ultimately chose to vaccinate all children under five as they were most at risk and those over 13 as they were most likely to spread it - leaving out children aged five to 13.

"He knew better, he knew there were vaccines, he should have chosen 'option four' - which was to vaccinate all children in Northland, which was what the experts were thinking," says National health spokesperson Shane Reti says.

"We did have an outbreak and it does look like they achieved the goal of the response which was to stem the flow of the disease," Health Minister David Clark says.

It's now emerged that thousands of leftover vaccines could expire without use - the MoH says that's due to a low uptake of the programme.


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