US expert weighs in on Auckland measles outbreak and why our vaccination numbers are down

Source: 1News

As the number of measles cases continues to rise across the country, a US expert who has worked at the highest levels of Government, has weighed in on the fight against the disease.

Measles numbers have almost tipped the 1000 mark with 975 cases reported across New Zealand to date, the vast majority of those in Auckland.

Global immunisation expert, Walter Orenstein has worked as Deputy Director for immunisation programmes for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is a former Director of the US National Immunisation Programme.

He says to break the chains of human-to-human transmission, high immunisation levels are needed.

“It is entirely preventable,” he told TVNZ 1's Breakfast today.

“But it is returning and returning with a vengeance and the big problem is failure to vaccinate.”

He says vaccine hesitancy and misunderstanding surrounding getting vaccines is behind low immunisation numbers.

“The hesitancy unfortunately is not randomly distributed, but in clusters and it’s the clusters of those susceptible that allow outbreaks and transmissions to occur,” Mr Orenstein says.

Making the vaccine easily accessible to those who are poor, he says, is another important factor in reducing low vaccination numbers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ramped up immunisation efforts in the Auckland region where the outbreak is centralised.

And the Government is looking into the idea of pharmacies being able to give measles vaccines, as the number of cases continues to grow.

"Immunisation is the best way to fight this outbreak," the Prime Minister told 1 NEWS on Monday.

"At present the only place we consider there to be an outbreak is Auckland, particularly South Auckland," Ms Ardern said.

The Ministry of Health is also training 25 additional nurses to be able to give the vaccines.