Health Minister Dr David Clark is urging people to ensure their vaccinations are up to date as more MMR vaccine is sent to Canterbury to deal with the measles outbreak.
A total of 18,000 extra doses of the MMR vaccine are being transported to Canterbury over the next 24 hours, with the first batch due to arrive later today. They will be available for use from Wednesday. Further supplies of the vaccine will follow.
"There have now been 25 confirmed measles cases in Canterbury, and this number is expected to rise. Vaccination is the best protection against this serious and highly infectious virus that spreads very easily from person to person,” Dr Clark says.
“The MMR vaccine is very effective and it's free. We’re working closely with PHARMAC, the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) and the Ministry of Health to ensure that there are enough vaccines available to the people who need them.
“Children who have not yet been immunised are at the greatest risk from the disease, so it’s important to make sure you and your family are up to date with their immunisations.
The priority groups for the MMR vaccine are:
• Children and young adults (age range 5 years to 28 years) who are either not immunised or who have only received one MMR dose to date.
• Children 12 months to 5 years who have never received any doses of MMR.
• The four-year-old MMR can be brought forward to no sooner than four weeks after the previous MMR.
• Adults aged 29 - 50 years (this group only received one dose of measles vaccine).
“Measles is highly contagious and it is in everyone’s best interest that people in these priority groups get vaccinated, both to protect themselves and the wider community.
“We’re also closely monitoring for possible cases in other DHBs. It’s important to note that normal scheduled immunisations are currently unaffected. So, if you’re in Otago, and your child is booked in for their vaccinations, this will still go ahead.
“Anyone who suspects they may have measles should avoid contact with other people, you can call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or your general practice. Calls made to general practices after hours will be answered by a nurse who will advise you what to do.
“If you are not sure that you're immune to measles or don't know if you have had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, talk to your doctor and get immunised,” David Clark says.
The Ministry of Health will provide an update tomorrow regarding the latest steps that are being taken to manage the outbreak.