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The Government’s decision to extend the measles vaccine to all babies in Auckland over the age of six months is too little, too late, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The measles outbreak peaked weeks ago and the Government’s self-imposed vaccine shortage meant that those who needed to be vaccinated, couldn’t be. Vaccination is of the utmost importance, but it’s also important vaccines are available when we need them.

“The shortage was there because this Government ignored the warning signs: there were three outbreaks in January and February alone. That should have been a clear sign more vaccines would be needed as the number of measles cases continued to mount.

“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter is desperately scrambling to look like she’s taking action on measles, but this is just too little, too late. National proposed allowing pharmacists to vaccinate for measles weeks ago in a move that would have widened access, but Ms Genter ignored our calls for action.

“Over 1,800 people have contracted measles this year already despite warnings to the Government from the World Health Organisation in April.

“What’s more, giving MMR vaccines to six-month-old babies can reduce seroconversion meaning a third vaccine may need to be given.

“The current measles outbreaks were preventable. This Government scrapped the health targets that resulted in higher immunisation rates, missed the early warning signs of an outbreak and then deprioritised 30-50 year olds when vaccines ran short.

“If the Government has enough vaccines now, it should be encouraging all New Zealanders to get vaccinated.”

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