The Government has known measles outbreaks have been sweeping the country for months and should have ordered more vaccines far sooner, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“There were three outbreaks in the first two months of this year, in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury, and by June this was up to nine, adding up to the second highest number of outbreaks ever recorded. The warning signs were there, but Health Minister David Clark did nothing.
“The Government’s now flip-flopping over MMR vaccines, with shortages forcing large numbers of New Zealanders to go unvaccinated and causing huge disparities in access to vaccines across the country.
“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has claimed that 100,000 additional vaccines will be arriving ‘in the coming weeks’ but won’t say when. New Zealanders need clarity and certainty.
“David Clark and Julie Anne Genter have been unacceptably slow to react to the measles outbreak. The World Health Organisation contacted the Government in April to warn them about the increased risks from measles facing all Pacific nations.
“The number of measles cases has now passed 1,600 and it’s not clear that the most recent shipment of 52,000 vaccines has even been distributed around the country more than two weeks after it arrived in New Zealand.
“If Julie Anne Genter wants to get the measles outbreak under control, she needs to distribute all of the vaccines currently available, authorise pharmacists to vaccinate for measles to improve access like National called for more than a month ago, clarify when the 100,000 vaccines will arrive and reinstate the health targets her Government scrapped.
“Measles is so easily preventable if people can access the MMR vaccine. Two unborn babies are now known to have died, possibly as a result of their mothers contracting measles. This underlines why it is so important for Kiwis to be vaccinated.
“Under National, health targets resulted in vaccination rates that were increasing. This Government scrapped them and hasn’t created any new targets like it said it would.
“This Government has let measles get out of control.”