By: Lucy Bennett

Northland’s District Health Board boss hopes parents opposed to vaccinating their children will throw their principles out the window and get them immunised against the deadly new meningococcal strain.

A programme began in Northland today to vaccinate 22,500 young children and teenagers against meningococcal after an outbreak was declared in the region.

The Ministry of Health also confirmed today that it had obtained 5000 vaccines on top of the 20,000 already procured for the programme, meaning there would now be enough to vaccinate all of those in the two age groups deemed most at risk.

Children aged between nine months and five years, and teenagers are being targeted for vaccination after the Government last week announced the urgent programme to fight an outbreak of the virulent and deadly MenW strain in Northland.

Northland has had the highest number of cases and death from the strain.
Three of the six nationwide MenW deaths this year, including a 7-year-old girl and a teenage boy, occurred in Northland. The number of MenW cases nationwide jumped from five in 2016 to 29 this year, including seven in Northland.

Northland DHB chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain spoke to the Health Select Committee today where he was asked about the number of people in Northland who actively decline vaccination.

Northland had “by far” the highest rate of active declines in the country, at 12.3 per cent.

Chamberlain was asked whether the MenW outbreak would have an impact on that rate.

“I don’t know, but I suspect that a large number of those who decline will throw their principles out the window for this particular vaccination campaign. I certainly hope so for their sakes,” he told MPs.

“It may make them think again about vaccination and decline. Our decline rates went up considerably when we were targeted with the Vaxxed campaign, that was the movie, which they definitely targeted Northland.”

Chamberlain said that it was worrying that children aged between 6 and 12 were going to miss out in the vaccination programme but he said they were at much lower risk.

He hoped that if there were any remaining vaccine supplies after the programme ended they would be used on the children not in the targeted age ranges.

“The reality is, 22,000 kids, if we got that many that would be amazing. Prior to Christmas, it’s a massive challenge.”

Chamberlain said he was pleased another 5000 vaccinations had been procured.

“That was fantastic news. They did really well, the Ministry [of Health] and Pharmac to secure some more because it’s in really short supply.”

Chamberlain said that while the Northland population swelled massively over the Christmas period, only Northlanders were eligible for the vaccination.

“If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands that travel up from Auckland, this is only for Northlanders,” he said.

“So everybody coming up needs to know that there’s some sort of risk.”

He later told reporters the risk to individuals coming into the region over the Christmas period was very low.

“Hopefully by then we will have given a level of herd protection to the population because we will have achieved the 20,000 to 25,000 vaccines.”

Source: NZ Herald


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