The Paediatric Society of New Zealand/Te Kāhui Mātai Arotamariki o Aotearoa are concerned about the number of tamariki in Aotearoa that are not up to date with all their immunisations, particularly the MMR vaccination. This means we could see a widespread outbreak of measles over the winter.
Auckland paediatrician Owen Sinclair says, “Measles spreads faster than almost any other disease and can be very dangerous. Tamariki need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected - one at 12 months and one at 15 months. On average, one dose is 95% effective, and two doses are more than 99% effective. People who have had their measles vaccine can’t catch measles or spread it to vulnerable people.
“We are particularly concerned as dozens of New Zealanders were potentially exposed to measles on a recent flight into Sydney.
“Parents and caregivers should check with their doctor or Well Child Tamariki Ora (Plunket) book to see if their child is up to date with their measles vaccinations. If your tamariki is older than 15 months and hasn’t had both doses - or you’re not sure - play it safe, and get them vaccinated. It’s free and there are no safety concerns with having extra doses.
“We are concerned that a large percentage of children receive their 12-month MMR vaccination but don’t get the second vaccination at 15 months, and you need both to be protected.”
Dr Sinclair says, “If you’re not vaccinated measles can make you very sick and affect your health for the rest of your life. One in 10 people with measles will need hospital treatment and it can result in serious complications like pneumonia, seizures, and swelling of the brain. Some people die from measles.”
In the most recent New Zealand outbreak in 2019, more than 2,000 people contracted measles and 700 had to go to hospital. Māori and Pasifika were particularly affected.
Dr Sinclair says, “We are urging parents and caregivers to check that their tamariki and rangitahi are up to date with all their vaccinations. Measles is only one of many immunisation-preventable illnesses that can cause serious diseases. Getting your child fully immunised on time is the best this you can do to keep you and other children safe.
“It’s not only pēpi that are at risk but there’s also a large number of people who missed out on their MMR vaccination. If you or anyone in your whānau born after 1969 has not had an MMR vaccine, or you aren’t sure, ask your GP, parent or caregiver. We need at least 90% of the country to be immunised to protect our community and whānau.
“We have more information on measles immunisation on our KidsHealth page, go to https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/measles-immunisation.”