Thursday, 21 January 2021


Increased demand locally for MMR vaccine as outbreak spreads

The nationwide shortage of measles vaccine is having an impact locally with medical centres currently only able to vaccinate children under five.

Medical Officer of Health for the Waikato, Dr Richard Hoskins, advised the situation is changing daily as the limited vaccines are allocated based on demand communicated back from the Public Health Organisations (PHOs).

“We received 1,630 vaccines this week, we are having to prioritise where we send those based on the demand levels reported back by GPs through their PHOs. Obviously, most of those are going to areas where measles has been confirmed and therefore the need to protect the community is greatest,” he said. The Ministry of Health says 175,000 vaccines have been administered to date this year, which compares with 94,000 for the same period last year. A further 100,000 have been sourced but may not arrive in the country until December.

Adele Pudney, Director/Clinical Lead Nurse at the Mercury Bay Medical Centre said people in Whitianga are already being pro-active in terms of immunisation.

“Mercury Bay Medical Centre has received a large number of enquiries from patients wanting to know if they are immune to measles as well as requests for vaccination. We were initially able to meet the increased demand until about ten days ago when it became evident there was a national shortage of vaccine,” she told The Informer on Friday last.

“We now have a limited supply of MMR but have been asked by the Ministry of Health and DHB to reserve this vaccine for children under 5 years of age who have not been vaccinated or who require catch up vaccination, and to hold some for susceptible close contacts of a confirmed case.”

Dr Hoskins said the most sensible precaution people could take at this stage was to check their immunisation status. “We know there are a large number of people within the 15-38 age group who missed out on vaccination because the system at the time was pretty poor. The advice I would give people is to get hold of that information. They can try their GP or their parents may have a Well Child book, it is important that they have the documented evidence.”

However, people in this category who find they have not been full vaccinated will still need to wait until more vaccines become available.   

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to vaccinate many non-priority groups (ie those older than five years of age). However, once the delivery of additional MMR stock is confirmed, we will make contact with these patients. We are being updated daily from the Ministry of Health and DHB and are continuing to ask for more MMR stock,” said Adele. Dr Hoskins also added that, because measles used to be very common, people over the age of 50 are considered immune and do not need to be concerned.

Describing the procedures in the event of any confirmed measles cases here, Dr Hoskins revealed an outbreak could have significant health and economic consequences for small communities like Whitianga and the wider Mercury Bay.

“If measles is confirmed, anyone who has been in contact with an infected person and is not vaccinated is required to be quarantined at home until they either show symptoms of the disease, or the risk of infection has passed which is around 15 days after potential exposure. This includes staying away from school, work, shops, anywhere where they could interact with other people. I have written to all of the schools advising them of the procedures they need to follow should they have a confirmed case, which involves isolating all non-vaccinated students and staff,” he said.

“School are required to hold a list of all unvaccinated students and I would strongly recommend that they now ensure those lists are up to date, if they haven’t done so already.”

Adele warns that under no circumstances should someone who is suspected of having measles go to their GP’s office or Medical Centre.

“To date, we do not have any confirmed cases of measles in our community but want to remind the public that if you or your child has a cough, fever, runny nose, inflamed eyes or a rash or think you have measles, stay at home and call the medical centre 07 8665911 or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice. Measles is highly infectious and can spread quickly through breathing, sneezing and coughing. For further information you can refer to or”

As of 19 September, 19 cases of measles had been confirmed in Waikato since August 1, including in Paeroa. On 20 September a total of 1,151 cases had been reported over the whole of the year in Auckland. The Ministry of Health is advising people to check their immunisation status before travelling to Auckland and for those who are not immune to avoid the city. There are no restrictions on organising or attending events, however, if you feel unwell it is recommended you stay away from any large gatherings.

Pictured: Mercury Bay Medical Centre in Whitianga has reported an increased demand for MMR vaccinations in recent week's.


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