A specialist who raised concerns about the rising meningococcal infections in May this year said at the time ‘our Ministry of Health has been very quick to sit on their thumbs… I fear we are going to see a lot of deaths this winter’, National’s associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The warning was given in May this year at the Regional Royal New Zealand College of GPs Conference in Northland by a specialist doctor speaking at the conference.

“Tragically that’s exactly what went on to happen and it’s inappropriate for the Health Minister David Clark to continue praising the ‘swift response to the declaration of the outbreak in November’.

“It is especially inappropriate given that it has become clear that outbreak status was reached in October and there were many red flags as far back as May.

“The delay in acting on the outbreak may mean that the response won’t be enough for the needs of the community. It is not currently clear that there are enough vaccines for Northland children in the target groups.

“This is a cause for concern on its own, but coupled with the fact that the outbreak could spread to other communities means that the Health Minister must take this issue much more seriously.

“The DHB has commented that ‘the only effective way to manage this outbreak is with a vaccine programme’ and yet the Minister continues to dodge questions in Parliament claiming that a response of 20,000 vaccines is enough.

“Parents and members of the community are concerned and the Minister is doing nothing to convince them that the response is adequate. The Minister needs to listen to the pleas for information and action and properly respond to this deadly outbreak.”  

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