Amy Adams

Action on measles too slow

by Amy Adams, MP for Selwyn

I was saddened to learn that the death of two babies and an adult in Samoa have been attributed to complications from measles. It appears that this recent outbreak in Samoa is likely to have started from members of a representative school-aged sports team being exposed to measles while travelling to Auckland.

My colleague Dr Shane Reti, MP for Whangarei and the opposition associate health spokesperson, called for pharmacists to be allowed to vaccinate for measles almost two months ago to help stem the spread of the epidemic centred around Auckland. It is a relief that the government has now taken up this suggestion but a shame that it took so long.

It makes sense to utilise the resources of our more than 800 vaccination-qualified pharmacists who have been able to administer influenza vaccinations for some time. This simple change will allow many more Kiwis and travellers to be protected from measles. So far this year almost 2,000 New Zealanders have been infected with the disease.

The government needs to explain why it took so long to allow pharmacists to vaccinate for measles when it was obvious more people need to be vaccinated and pharmacists were calling for this to happen.

The government should have rolled out vaccinations as widely as possible, as early as possible. Instead, it ignored the early warning signs this year, including three outbreaks in January and February and a letter from the World Health Organisation specifically advising of the risks from measles.

Measles is a preventable disease and it is the government’s job to ensure as many Kiwis as possible are vaccinated. The previous national government introduced health targets that resulted in higher immunisation rates but inexplicably this government scrapped them.

At last smart, simple moves that will immediately increase access to vaccines are being taken up. However this will be of little comfort to communities in Samoa now in the midst of their own epidemic.