About three dozen trained pharmacy vaccinators throughout Northland will soon be able to vaccinate for measles to those aged 16 years and over.

It’s the latest government initiative to stop the measles outbreak that has infected 87 Northlanders and nearly 2000 throughout the country, mostly in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health, Pharmac and district health boards have been working on a joint immunisation approach, and the involvement of pharmacy vaccinators is an added tool in the fight against the deadly disease.

The ministry is working through logistics which includes adding measles, mumps and rubella on the pharmaceutical schedule, so pharmacists can be paid for delivering it.

Pharmacists in Northland have been calling on the ministry to let them provide the
vaccines to stop the disease spreading into the region from bigger cities.

Shane Heswall, of Kensington and Maunu Pharmacies, said the Government announcement was fantastic news but he said a proper vaccination strategy was needed in the long-run.

“Unlike GP clinics, people don’t need to book an appointment. They can walk into a pharmacy and ask for measles vaccination and we have enough resources to do that.

“While we welcome the initiative, we’d like to see it opened up for more like whooping cough and things like marae visits and mobile services. The ministry needs to have a proper vaccination strategy.”

Heswall said pharmacist vaccinators have been ready “for months” to help combat the spread of measles.

He has 12 trained vaccinators in his pharmacies and about another 23 elsewhere in Northland who are waiting for the greenlight from the Northland District Health Board to start administering the vaccination.

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said the age marker of over 16 was to enable there was no disruption to the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule, which would continue to be delivered by GPs.

Pharmacist Shane Heswall is glad the Government has come to the party by allowing trained pharmacists to give measles vaccinations. Photo / Michael Cunningham
“It also fits with advice from the Expert Advisory Group which recommended new ways to deliver vaccines to reach mid-teens to 29-year-olds who mightn’t routinely engage with general practice.

“One vaccination protects 95 perc ent of people, two vaccinations protects 99 per cent of people. By making it easy for those over 16 to get vaccinated we will improve this group’s immunity to measles.

The pharmacist vaccinators’ programme will be reviewed by the ministry after a year.

More than 300,000 vaccines have been distributed in New Zealand so far this year, compared with 150,000 for the whole of 2018.

The ministry said 155,000 MMR vaccines would arrive within the next three months.

NZ Herald

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