The Director General of Health has today confirmed the expert group that decided which vaccination programme to roll out in Northland after a deadly outbreak of Meningococcal W was never told there were enough vaccines for all under 20s in Northland, Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti says.
“Ashley Bloomfield has told a Select Committee looking into the outbreak that the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) gave its recommendations on November 8th. The following day Pharmac confirmed it could secure enough vaccines for a full vaccination programme but the TAG wasn’t given that information. The group never even reconvened to consider it.
“The Select Committee was also told that the Ministry of Health did not have any formal advice that there was additional supply, it only had 20,000 confirmed to it by Pharmac when there were thousands more available and that’s the advice it used to roll out the limited vaccination campaign.
“The programme that went ahead excluded 5-12 year olds. A seven month old baby went on to contract the disease and this might not have happened if the full roll out had been carried out. It’s outrageous that this information was not passed on.
“Dr Bloomfield told media earlier this week that cost was a factor in deciding whether to purchase enough vaccines for all under 20s. Today he reiterated that. The dozens of emails I’ve had from angry Northland parents have asked what cost you should put on the lives of children.
“Health Minister David Clark told media on Monday that part of the reason for a reduced vaccination campaign was that there weren’t enough people to carry out the vaccinations. Today the District Health Board confirmed that was not true.
“It was also confirmed today that there are thousands of vaccines left over. These could be used for the 5-12 year olds who missed out, instead they will likely be left to expire. David Clark needs to stop making excuses and admit that the people of Northland have been failed.”
Health Minister David Clark has once again changed his story about when he knew there were enough Meningococcal W vaccines for all under 20-year-olds in Northland, Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Minister and the Prime Minister have been saying publically for months that a global shortage was the reason for the limited vaccination programme. It’s now been revealed that there were enough vaccines all along.
“David Clark first said the limited vaccinations were because of a global shortage, then he said he only found out last month that there were additional vaccines, and then he told media he was actually informed in November that additional vaccines were available.
“The expert advisory group decided on the limited vaccination campaign on November 8th. Pharmac was told the following day, after the experts met, that further vaccines could be sourced but the expert group was never reconvened and given that information.
“The expert group made recommendations without knowing there were 30,000 extra vaccines that could have resulted in different recommendations. The Ministry preferred they didn’t know so that they could save money with a limited campaign.
“The people of Northland deserve straight answers from both David Clark and the Prime Minister. They have both described the immunisation campaign as a success, despite a seven month old going on to contract the disease. They can’t rule out that her immunisation and community immunity could have prevented that.”
Health Minister David Clark has confirmed he knew at least a month ago that there were enough vaccines for all of the children in Northland following a deadly outbreak of Meningococcal W, Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Minister repeatedly said that a global shortage meant that there weren’t enough vaccines to carry out a full vaccination programme following the outbreak which was declared in November, which is why children aged 5-12 weren’t vaccinated.
“It has now been revealed that PHARMAC knew it could secure an additional 30,000 vaccines as far back as 8th November last year. The Ministry of Health detailed the costs to vaccinate all children on November 22nd in a document that detailed five campaign vaccination options.
“Emails show that five options were discussed with David Clark for a vaccination programme and yet he signed off on a targeted campaign which excluded 5-12 year old’s.
“If the Minister knew last month, why did he sit on the lie and not correct the record? Why didn’t he ask his officials for an assurance that more vaccine couldn’t be secured? How could he and the Prime Minister say repeatedly that there weren’t enough vaccines when there were? Why didn’t PHARMAC and the Ministry of Health inform the Minister and Prime Mnister that more vaccines were available?
“The Director General of Health acknowledged yesterday when questioned that the additional vaccines were more expensive. How can you put a price on lives during an outbreak?
“I’ve received dozens of emails from angry Northland parents wanting to know why they were lied to about availability, they deserve answers. Especially given a seven month old baby went on to contract the disease.
“The Minister, the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Health and PHARMAC need to be honest with Northlanders about when they knew that more vaccines were available and why they weren’t purchased.”
It’s been revealed there were enough vaccines for all of the children in Northland after a Meningococcal W outbreak despite the Prime Minister and Health Minister saying that wasn’t the case, MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“When the outbreak was declared in November last year a decision was made not to vaccinate 5-12 year-olds. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark repeatedly said that was because of a global shortage in vaccines.
“However, I have now uncovered evidence that in addition to the 20,000 vaccines PHARMAC purchased from its preferred provider Sanofi, it had also asked Pfizer what vaccines it had available and was told there were an additional 30,000 vaccines which would have protected all Northland children.
“Both vaccines were recommended by the expert group, they just came from different providers. PHARMAC contacted Pfizer soon after the outbreak and was told they could be available within two weeks, while the other vaccines from Sanofi would take four weeks to get to New Zealand and there would be an additional $10,000 cost for air freight.
“There are now serious questions that need to be answered about why there were repeated claims of a shortage. Did PHARMAC advise the Minister that more vaccines were available? Did the Minister do everything he could to make sure that more vaccines could be secured? Did the Prime Minister know that more vaccines were available?
“Northland parents deserve answers about why they couldn’t vaccinate their children during a deadly outbreak and why they were lied to. A seven month old baby contracted Meningitis after the vaccination programme was underway, this might not have happened if the full vaccination programme was rolled out.
“Amidst a litany of concerns we have proposals for how Meningitis outbreaks in the future can be better managed, but for now, the people of Northland have been badly let down by the Government and urgent answers are needed about why the availability of further vaccines was kept under wraps.”
This Government will be remembered as the Government that dumbed down our university sector in its Botched Budget, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Government has cancelled multiple successful, innovative university programmes including entrepreneurial universities, ICT graduate schools and international doctoral research fellowships.
“These programmes brought high calibre professors, their teams and ideas to New Zealand. This has been a very successful and is well-liked by universities. But funding has been ‘reprioritised to other priority areas in the Budget that will improve wellbeing for New Zealanders’.
“In other words, the Government can find money to spend on painting the Beehive and putting more bureaucrats in Treasury, but it can’t fund successful university programmes.
“ICT graduate schools based in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch are devastated to find out next year will be their last. These schools were created in 2014 by the previous National Government who recognised the huge export impact of ICT.
“National knew these schools would accelerate the growth of New Zealand’s ICT talent.
“The graduate schools have high employment outcomes and strong relationships with industry, all of which will be broken by a Government that does not understand business.
“The New Zealand ICT industry is making a name for itself on the world stage and is growing rapidly. We need people with a high level of ICT skills and knowledge in New Zealand so they can drive innovation in this sector and build a more productive and internationally competitive economy.
“A strong economy is the best way to improve the living standards of Kiwis, but it doesn’t look like the Government knows this. A National Government will support the ICT industry with training opportunities and will lift the quality of teaching and international rankings for New Zealand universities.”
The Government’s flagship education policy fees-free has turned out to be an even bigger flop than what Finance Minister Grant Robertson recently admitted to, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“A briefing from Education Minister Chris Hipkins says ‘the impact of the fees-free policy on students’ study choices is expected to be limited’ showing the Minister knew last year the policy would have little impact on students.
“This is a clear admission from the Minister that fees-free is a waste of money.
“But while the policy has had little impact on students, it’s left huge administrative costs to Universities, with collective costs of $600,000 to administer the policy, only to have fewer enrolments. The Ministry of Education and Tertiary Education Commission paid a staggering $8 million implementing the policy.
“The Prime Minister and Mr Hipkins have attempted to justify the lower enrolments by saying the number was already falling. But in the same briefing where the Minister admits fees-free is a failure, it notes apprentice numbers are actually up but they weren’t participating in fees-free.
“The briefing also notes there is no record of whether students who took up fees-free completed or failed their courses.
“This is a $2.8 billion policy, to not know how many students passed their studies not only makes a mockery of fees-free, but it shows how willing this Government is to throw money around without doing the background work to make it a policy that makes meaningful, targeted change.
“Labour spent nine years in Opposition, it had time to ensure it got the detail right with this policy. Instead fees-free was used as big election bribe and as a result has been a waste of money. The Government’s poor spending priorities has resulted in teachers gearing up for the largest ever industrial action.
“The Minister’s statement there’s no more money for teachers is a tough pill to swallow when he’s also confirmed his billion dollar policy for students has had little impact. He needs to put an end to speculation on the year two and three rollouts.”
National MPs Shane Reti and Matt King are supporting a petition calling for an inquiry into the Northland Meningitis outbreak after presenting to the Health Select Committee this morning.
“Today we presented evidence of delays and deception across multiple parts of the Ministry of Health, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and PHARMAC in response to the outbreak,” Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Meningitis Foundation tag line is ‘every second counts’, and we challenged the Health Select Committee whether every second had counted in the Northland outbreak,” Dr Reti says.
“We presented evidence Northland DHB had frequently lobbied Health Minister David Clark for a vaccination program, including by teleconference, a claim the Minister has denied in writing. The Minister needs to come clean. He ignored the pleas of Northland DHB,” Mr King says.
“Northlanders are amongst the highest risk, lowest socio economic population group in our country. Our DHB asked for help early on and didn’t get it. That is unacceptable.
“A segment of our at-risk youths were ineligible for the Government funded vaccination campaign. The Government ignored expert advice that recommended all under 20s should be vaccinated, and a child that was not covered passed away,” Mr King says
“We have evidence of a delay of 22 days from the day Meningitis qualified as an outbreak in Northland to the day it was officially declared, a delay that put lives at risk and makes a mockery of the every second counts in Meningitis rule,” Dr Reti says.
“After the outbreak was declared it then took a further 14 days before PHARMAC ordered the vaccines, despite the anxiety of vaccine manufacturers who were aware of short supplies,” says Dr Reti
“It even looks as though PHARMAC may have deliberately altered the date of the vaccine Purchase Orders to make it look as though they had acted more quickly than they did. This would be a very serious matter requiring independent forensic investigation.
“Delays and deception by the Ministry of Health, ESR and PHARMAC clearly show they did not make every second count in the Northland Meningitis outbreak and 502 people including Matt King and myself are supporting the call for an inquiry,” Dr Reti says.
A link to the oral submission by Dr Shane Reti and Matt King to their petition ‘Inquiry into Meningitis outbreak in Northland’ can be found HERE.
Cabinet documents from May last year show that 12 weeks into the university year the fees-free policy was already failing, says National Party Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.
“The documents show that despite pressing on with a full year of the costly policy, the Minister knew the wheels were falling off after only three months.
“The ongoing effectiveness of the program was already being called into question with an ‘uncertain longer term impact’ and enrolment numbers ‘harder to achieve than previously thought’. While years two and three of the policy were also highlighted as a big concern.
“The Government is trying to distance themselves from their target of improving enrolment rates so they can pretend the policy hasn’t been a complete failure, but in reality this was a key objective with Andrew Little saying that they expected a 15 per cent increase in student numbers when he was Labour leader.
“Fees free was failing from the very beginning and every subsequent cabinet paper painted a worse picture until the Government finally conceded it has been a flop this week.
“Standing alongside Kiwibuild as another Labour flagship policy fail, the Government needs to either cancel or commit to the promised 2nd and 3rd years fees-free.”
The Government’s confirmation that the $200m underspend from their failed fees-free policy will go into polytechnic reforms is nothing more than moving funds from one failed experiment to the next, says National Party Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.
“Funding from fees-free will now be redirected into Chris Hipkin’s misguided and undesired polytechnic reforms, which are scheduled for a 1 January start date next year.
“The use of money from the fees-free flop to amalgamate and centralise regional polytechnics into one single Wellington polytechnic is fiscal pillaging.
“When funding is at a premium in the education space, the Minister is redirecting fees-free funds into polytechnic reforms that he has been completely unable to provide costings on. The Auditor General recently noted ‘there is limited information on the financial implications of the proposals’ and was unable to form a view based on the current information.
“If the Minister is seriously going to use fees-free money for an experiment with polytechnic reforms then he must immediately provide costings for the reforms, and take heed of the Auditor General’s advice to delay the proposed start date next year.”
Another flagship Labour policy has failed with Finance Minister Grant Roberson announcing today the fees-free programme had not met enrolment expectations and delivered an underspend, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“Cabinet documents forecast 80,000 learners taking up fees-free last year, when in fact only 50,000 students enrolled, causing the $2.8 billion program to return $197 million back to the Government to reallocate.
“Fees-free has been a failure from the very start with 2400 fewer students enrolling in tertiary education and training than a year ago. The Government has poorly allocated money in education and now it’s in a situation where teachers are engaging in the largest ever industrial action in New Zealand, and one of its key policies has fallen over.
“A recent study showed only six per cent of students found the fees-free policy was critical to them enrolling, but these students were also more likely to drop out of the courses they were enrolled in.
“This is another case of Labour over promising and raising expectations in Opposition and now under delivering. Fees-free joins a long list of Government failures, including welfare reform, KiwiBuild and a Capital Gains Tax. The Government is big on talk but has no plan.
“In the Government’s so called ‘year of delivery’, we’re yet to see any actual delivery.
“Using the underspent $197 million from failed fees free to sustain his disastrous reforms in the polytechnic sector is simply one bad policy propping up another. The Education Minister needs to urgently re-evaluate fees-free and at least delay the rushed reforms of the polytechnic sector.”