Media Release

11 September 2019

MMR vaccines only available for scheduled children due to short supply

Bay of Plenty health agencies are advising that the region is experiencing extremely limited supply of the MMR vaccine at this time and will prioritise those young children already scheduled for their routine jabs at 15 months and four years old.

Anyone else is asked to call their GP to register their request for a vaccination, but only if you believe you have never had an MMR vaccination. Adults who received childhood MMR vaccinations are sufficiently covered.

"These requests will start to be met when there are further stocks available, which is unlikely to be any time before Wednesday next week and even then, the region is likely to be in catch-up mode," says General Practice Services Manager at the Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation Phil Back.

The 'pause' on supply of the vaccine that the Ministry of Health placed over the weekend continued through to Monday to support a national stocktake to be undertaken.

Today the Ministry has announced that existing stock was being distributed to high priority areas, including Auckland and Dunedin in the first instance, with any residual stock being disbursed across lower priority areas. Another 52,000 vaccines are expected to arrive in New Zealand within the week, but it's not yet clear when they will be available for patients in the Bay of Plenty.

Eastern and Western Bay of Plenty will receive 500 vaccines out of 1760 available for the Midland region (including the Waikato, Taranaki, Tairawhiti and Bay of Plenty) and these will be prioritised for scheduled vaccinations for young children. Currently the Midland region has orders in for 7300 vaccines.

"We worked hard with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board to ensure we put our case forward for stock of the vaccine to be directed to the Bay of Plenty," says Back.

General practices across the Bay of Plenty are experiencing high numbers of local patients and their families asking for MMR vaccination.

"Those general practices are currently taking names of those wanting to receive the vaccination, so that when Bay of Plenty does receive stock, those patients will be contacted," explains Back.

"What people need to realise is that there is extremely limited supply of MMR vaccines left in the Bay of Plenty and so we are going to have to wait for further supplies to arrive."

Tensions have flared at general practices with patients demanding to be vaccinated. But Back is asking for calm and patience.

"It is also important to note if you think you have any symptoms of measles that you call your GP rather than attend in person to help prevent any spread of the disease."

The WBOP PHO, Eastern Bay Primary Health Alliance, Nga Mataapuna Oranga and the BOP DHB are primed to offer free pop-up MMR vaccination clinics in the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty to ensure all priority groups are vaccinated against measles once more vaccine stock becomes available.

 "We understand the level of concern in the community about the measles outbreak, and we have vaccinators and venues at the ready, but until we have the vaccines we can't proceed. As soon as we can confirm we have vaccine stock available we will implement the pop-up clinics and let people know when, where and how they can access them," says Back.

Updates on availability of the vaccine will be notified on the WBOP PHO website www.wboppho.org.nz and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WBOPPHO/

Nationally, priorities for the MMR vaccine are all children, followed by the communities most affected. Only one dose of the MMR vaccine will be offered per person at this stage.

There have been 30 confirmed cases of measles in the Western Bay of Plenty since 1 January 2019.

For more information on measles please go to the Toi Te Ora Public Health website: https://www.toiteora.govt.nz/measles

Questions and answers

What is measles?

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can be serious. 

It is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.

Who is at risk of measles infection?

 People are at risk of getting measles if they are not immune to measles. People who are regarded as not immune to measles are:

People born after 1 January 1969 who have not had two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Infants under the age of 15 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine at 15 months old.  They are susceptible and rely on everyone else to be immune so that measles does not spread to them.

Children over 4 years who have not received their second dose of MMR.

What should you do?

Ensure you are up to date with your immunisations.

If you are not immune it is important to be aware of the symptoms of measles.  The early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough.

After three to five days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.

If you develop symptoms of measles:

Stay at home and away from public places (such as sports events, gatherings, parties, school, work, child care, shopping centres, public transport and so on).

See your doctor as soon as possible so a diagnosis can be confirmed.  However, phone the surgery ahead to alert them of your symptoms and to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people.

If you are unable to visit your GP phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Last updated: September 11, 2019