National’s MP for Whangarei, Shane Reti says that despite the Ministry of Health claiming vaccine supply as the reason for targeting specific age groups, thousands have been available through an Auckland supplier while ineligible children in Northland miss out.
“As tens of thousands of holidaymakers continue to flood into Northland’s Meningitis outbreak area over the summer it is concerning that the Government’s vaccination campaign is limited by vaccine stocks when several thousand vaccines were available to GPs a few weeks ago, with the first lot selling out in half a day.
“New batches of vaccines have continued arriving and even today GPs can privately purchase the same vaccine the Northland campaign is using. Why are there meningitis vaccines available for private purchase in Auckland today but we are told there are no more vaccines for children in the Northland outbreak region?
“Health Minister David Clark and the Ministry of Health avoided one of the Technical Advisory Group’s recommendations to vaccinate everyone under 20 years. The actual campaign sees Northland children between five and 12 years miss out on the vaccine, concerning many parents.
“Northlanders are being betrayed by the Minister who says their children can’t have vaccines because they are not available, when in fact thousands are being legitimately sold through a vaccine supplier in Auckland.
“It’s not good enough for the Minister to hide behind the advisory group’s recommendation of a targeted vaccination coverage when one of the other recommendations was also universal coverage for everyone under 20 years. You don’t get to pick who gets meningitis and who doesn’t, I’ve seen it before in as a GP Northland.
“It is unclear if the smaller vaccination group was selected based on price. If that’s the case the Minister needs to come clean on what the costs were for a targeted compared with a universal Meningitis campaign in Northland.
“Pharmac and the Ministry should have costed out the alternatives, and they now need to put that information out for scrutiny and not hide behind a committee or commercial sensitivities.
“I challenge the Minister to fix this delayed and limited campaign by acquiring existing meningitis vaccines and making it available to everyone in Northland under 20 years old.”
Screenshot showing Menactra vaccine private purchase availability available here.
Details showing the reasoning for the limited vaccination campaign available here.
Meningococcal W Technical Advisory Group meeting summary available here.
A lost computer drive by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) between Wellington and Auckland earlier this month was potentially far more damaging than the ‘little risk of personal identity theft’ described by NZTA at the time, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“National has received documents which show the huge extent of the breach, cynically released by the Government just before the Christmas holidays.
“We now know the lost USB drive contained information for staff identity cards for 1104 individuals including names, email addresses, photos and signatures.
“This constitutes a significant data privacy breach that cannot be swept under the table as ‘little risk of personal identity theft’.
“It is hard to believe and completely unacceptable that NZTA would courier staff identity data without password protection and without encryption.
“NZTA needs to immediately offer all 1104 staff identity theft protection to monitor and protect them if the stolen credentials are used. Email addresses may need to be changed and because photographs were included passport monitoring may also be required.
“NZTA needs an independent body such as CertNZ or the Privacy Commissioner to urgently review their cybersecurity policies and reassure the public with a report on findings and actions.
“The loss of the data drive is consistent with the cybersecurity laziness this Government has shown as Russian cyberattacks on DHBs, lack of 2-factor-authentication at the Ministry of Health, and now the loss of a data drive with no passwords and no encryption.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is responsible for the NZTA and his lack of transparency over this data loss is another example of NZTA failing under his watch.”
The end of year information dump by the Labour-led Government includes Ministry of Health officials discussing a Green Party SOP allowing individuals with previous drug convictions to manufacture cannabis, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The intentions of the Greens to liberalise cannabis under the cover of medical need is a further indictment on the Government’s agenda to be soft on drugs.
“We strongly believe that medicinal cannabis manufacturers and employees need to be ‘fit-and-proper-persons’ and National’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill was very clear on the details around this, something that is absent from the Government’s Bill.
“The Greens have listened to one version of the pleadings from East Coast based Hikurangi Cannabis and ignored the rest of the industry who were completely behind the fit-and-proper-persons requirements in my Bill.
“The industry was adamant that it understood the need to be absolutely squeaky clean in this new industry and they were up for that.
“Members of the industry have also said that there are many suitably-qualified and experienced people to support the sector. This makes it is hard to see why the Government is pushing to have people with serious drug convictions in the industry.
“National’s Bill used the clean slate legislation requiring no terms of imprisonment and no convictions for seven years for employees and even tougher standards for license holders including no associations with gangs. We stand behind these requirements as essential and reasonable.
“The Green Party’s intentions are clear and we now need to be vigilant as officials create unknown regulations for medicinal cannabis.
“The National Party will maintain high vigilance and accountability to ensure that people with serious drug convictions are not allowed to participate in the sensitive medicinal cannabis industry.”
The Government’s slow response to the Northland Meningitis outbreak has been underlined again in a report that shows that the Technical Advisory Group wasn’t convened until three weeks after outbreak status was reached, MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“The minutes of the Technical Advisory Group, obtained by National, suggest that an outbreak was technically reached around October 14 but the group was not convened until three weeks later on November 8.
“This delay completely contradicts the Minister’s repeated assurances that the response was ‘swift’ – there is nothing swift about it.
“What’s worse is that after the three-week delay in convening the group to confirm the outbreak and trigger the response, the meeting itself was carried out by a teleconference which took just an hour over a lunchtime.
“It staggering that the group were not convened earlier to confirm the outbreak and get on with the response – especially considering all it took was a phone call.
“Those three weeks would have been the difference between rolling out the immunisation campaign at schools and vaccinating children while they were still accessible. Instead, the vaccination programme was stalled and children have missed their vaccinations as a result.
“The Minister needs to come clean on the three-week delay to convene this advisory group.
“This has been a late and delayed response from the start, given the seven warning flags from May this year. The Minister must outline the timeline of events and tell the public why he and his Ministry wasted valuable time to respond to this deadly outbreak.”
Meningococcal W Technical Advisory Group meeting summary available here.
News that MedSafe is investigating cannabis billboard advertising in Auckland further confirms the lazy vacuum the Government has created for medicinal cannabis, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Earlier this year National released its own Medicinal Cannabis Bill which has been widely recognised as far superior to the Government’s legislation.
“Our Medicinal Cannabis Bill specifically covered advertising restrictions for cannabis, but the Government’s Bill was so poor we could not even debate this in the committee stage.
“We had regulations ready to go that would prohibit advertising cannabis to young people or around schools but the Government wouldn’t even entertain the debate.
“The Greens have tried to claim that this gaping hole was addressed in Parliament, however, advertising regulations weren’t debated or mentioned at all. Considering that this is already an issue it is woeful that the Greens are kicking this down the road, saying that medicinal cannabis regulation won’t be implemented till at least 2019.
“This is further evidence of cannabis decriminalisation by stealth and the Greens attempt to normalize cannabis in communities.
“Even at this late stage we are calling on Labour and NZ First to stop the Greens from walking all over them and at least regulate the advertising space for cannabis.”
Today the Government has decriminalised marijuana by stealth with the passing of its medicinal cannabis scheme despite National having a comprehensive plan to create a sensible regime right now, National’s associate Health spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“The Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill which has passed today allows the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public and does not provide the details or framework for a permanent medicinal cannabis scheme.
“This is lazy and dangerous – this Government is simply ticking the 100-day box that they were forced to by the Greens and it is permitting the smoking of drugs in our communities.
“We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public. Smoked loose leaf is not a medicine.
“That’s why we did the work and created a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that widened access to medicinal cannabis and provided a framework for licensing high-quality domestic production under sensible and achievable regulations.
“We offered to share our regime with the Government but egos got in the way and we were turned down. Now the Government has created a situation where it will essentially be legal to smoke loose leaf in public. The upcoming referendum is the place for a cannabis legalisation discussion, not this amendment Bill.
“If our police weren’t already on the receiving end of the Government’s soft on crime attitude and the cuts to regional police stations it now has to deal with the shambolic mixed messaging from this law.
“Our regime was created using international advice and is backed by national and international stakeholders and local industry. Health professionals should decide what medical conditions are suitable for medical cannabis and not politicians like in this Bill.
“A survey released last week showed that 72 per cent of adults think that doctors should decide, on a patient by patient basis, who should access medicinal cannabis products and that 73 per cent think that it should be treated the same as any other medicine.
“Instead the Government’s given none of this any thought and it’s sneaking through the decriminalisation of marijuana without any care for the consequences.”
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.”
National have supported the second reading of the Medicinal Cannabis Bill today with future support requiring the Government to accept a number of changes proposed by the National Party, National MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“National voted in favour of this Bill today, outlining that National’s future support depends on the Government’s acceptance of a number of Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) that I will introduce during the committee stage.
“This Bill, in its current form is loose and unworkable and has been widely criticised by the medical community, stakeholders and the wider public. Ridiculously, the Bill would make it legal for people with a terminal illness to possess and use cannabis but illegal for people to supply it to them.
“Our SOPs will significantly improve this Bill and are based on the significant work that I have done on my Members’ Bill. We want to that ensure New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.
“The changes we are seeking would improve access and affordability including fast tracking provisional MedSafe consenting of new medicinal cannabis medicines and pharmacist dispensing as well as creating a workable licencing regime.
“We would not support the Bill permitting the smoking of loose leaf cannabis and have concerns for any medical conditions that are included in the Bill. This should be left to experts and not politicians under the guise of medical need.
“If the Government won’t work with National on making improvements to the Bill we will not able to support the Bill at any further stages. The Government’s bill is poorly designed, rushed legislation which the media has called ‘legislative laziness’ and raises more questions than answers.
“We want to work with the Government to fix this Bill to ensure that medicinal cannabis products are made available to New Zealanders who need them with an appropriate regime in place in a fraction of the time of their current plan.”
The Health Minister has today dismissed the deaths from the current meningococcal outbreak and categorised the outbreak as a ‘slight rise’ in the disease, National’s associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Minister tried to dismiss the deaths from the current outbreak by saying ‘people have died of meningococcal disease… that happens.’ This is a callous and absolutely appalling description of a fatal disease which has caused devastation in a number of communities.
“The meningococcal outbreak that the Minister has described as a ‘slight rise’ in cases was identified in the Ministry of Health’s own immunisation update as an outbreak as early as May this year.
“That’s six months before the official notice was released. This gave the Government significant time to request and begin a response and yet by the Minister’s own admission he wasn’t even aware of the response till last week.
“Outbreaks don’t happen overnight and it is very clear that there were warnings about this for months before anything was done by the Minister. In fact, two of the deaths in Northland occurred after May, when the Ministry was signalling the outbreak.
“David Clark himself said in Parliament yesterday that he has ‘been made aware over time of concern around meningococcal W’ and yet he chose not to act. Given the seriousness of the disease, he should have taken action months earlier.
“The Ministry of Health document also specifically mentions that the two meningococcal vaccines available in New Zealand that protect against the W strain are not publicly funded for most people – therefore highlighting, back in May, that supplies would difficult to source compared to a publically funded vaccine.
“All of this adds up to the fact that the Health Minister should have known and actioned a response to this much sooner. He must come clean on what he knew, and when and why he didn’t request a response to this sooner so the public can judge how badly he has botched the handling of this fatal outbreak.”
The Health Minister David Clark must come clean on the timeline of events that led to his Governments’ inadequate and extremely delayed response to the fatal meningococcal outbreak, National’s associate Health spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“After the discovery of data that has been publically available for months showing significant increases in life-threatening meningococcal cases it defies belief that the Minister did not take steps to begin a response to this fatal outbreak sooner.
“The Minister claimed in Parliament today that he only knew about the outbreak last week, despite data from his Ministry’s monthly Public Health Surveillance reporting showing meningococcal cases doubling in the first few months of this year.
“Nationwide, cases went from four in January this year to ten in February, then to more than twenty cases in March, with nearly thirty cases in April and almost forty cases in May. By May there was already nearly double the cases than in 2017 for the same time period. Initially there were a range of meningococcal strains, but in April, half of the cases were identified as MenW and in May 100 per cent of the new cases were the MenW strain.
“The evidence that should have caused concern was there in May. We also now know from an internal memo that the Northland DHB has been ‘strongly encouraging the Ministry of Health for some months’ to respond to the increase in cases. This is simply not good enough.
“How can the Minister be so out of touch that he’s unaware of significant occurrences of deadly diseases? The safety of the public is at risk and instead of prioritising an appropriate response the Minister has attempting to justify his inaction based on the definition of an outbreak.
“I am concerned with the effectiveness of the school-based rollout because the majority of the target group are senior students who have already left for the year and primary students are also almost done. I am also concerned for other neighbouring DHBs where we know other cases have occurred. We aren’t aware of any plan for them at this time.
“The management of this serious threat to public health has been abysmal thus far and the public deserves to know what the Minister knew and when and how he is going to manage this to avoid further deaths.”