National MP wants early childhood teachers jabbed as measles scare grows

An MP is calling for measles vaccinations to be made available for early childhood teachers as the number of confirmed cases grow. 

National MP Nicola Willis wants the vaccines made available for early childhood teachers because there is a chance many of them won't have had a booster. 

She said many could "belong to the cohort of adults who are significantly less likely to have received an MMR booster when they were children because these weren't introduced until the 1990s". 

Some young children who may be immuno-compromised and attending early childhood facilities "could be put at risk if their teachers aren't protected", Willis said. 

"There's no sense in vaccinating only under-fives and not the adults who come into contact with young children every day."

The Wellington-based MP said Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter "hasn't acted fast enough on measles and has been dismissive of the both the scale of the outbreaks and the scale of the vaccine shortage".

Genter, a Green MP, was not available for comment, so Newshub could not confirm if the Government plans to make the vaccines available for early childhood teachers. 

The Government's priority is to vaccinate groups most affected by the outbreak in the Auckland area, namely children under five years of age, those aged 15-29 years and Pacific peoples within those groups. 

Because measles used to be very common, The Ministry of Health says people over the age of 50 are considered immune and don't need immunisations. 

A Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newshub people outside of the priority age groups who haven't been vaccinated should tell their doctor, "who may take their names and contact details and recall them as appropriate". 

Willis is suggesting the priority group be expanded, because "vaccinating early childhood teachers would provide even more safeguards for the hundreds of thousands of under-fives who attend early childhood facilities every day".

Wellington-based National MP Nicola Willis.
Wellington-based National MP Nicola Willis. Photo credit: Facebook

She added, "There's an opportunity to do the right thing and ensure that the health of the most susceptible Kiwi kids doesn't continue to be put at risk." 

The MP's plea comes as the measles scare continues to grow in New Zealand. The number of confirmed cases from January to September is now at 1517. 

The majority of those cases, more than 80 percent, have been in Auckland; 1261. 

Shortages of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine have led to concerns that some children are missing out, which is particularly concerning with school holidays starting this weekend. 

Earlier this week, Wellington High School warned students to stay away if they had not yet been vaccinated, following the confirmation of a year 12 student diagnosed with measles. 

National MP Dr Shane Reti is concerned there aren't enough vaccines to go around. 

He said on Thursday young people are "having vaccination appointments postponed, and adults are being told they may have to wait until February 2020 to be vaccinated". 

New Zealand received 52,000 fresh stocks of MMR doses last week, and another 100,000 have been secured - but there is confusion over when they will arrive. 

"The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has talked about 'months', but Ms Genter and [Health Minister] Dr David Clark have repeatedly referred to 'the coming weeks'," Dr Reti said. 

"New Zealanders need certainty about when vaccine supplies will improve, and they need that certainty now."


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