National MMR vaccination advice modified in light of current vaccine supplies

News article

18 March 2019

The Ministry of Health is reassuring New Zealanders that most of Aotearoa remains measles free, while asking people who have already had one dose, to delay their second dose, to ensure Canterbury continues to have enough vaccine for its needs.

Last week, Healthline, Plunket and the Immunisation Advisory Centre reported a surge in calls to their helplines from people around New Zealand seeking advice about measles.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre’s 0800 IMMUNE line saw a three-fold increase in call volume as Health Professionals looked for further information on measles. Healthline has seen a 40% increase in calls and Plunket also saw a 30–35% increase in call volumes last week. Most of these callers were not from Canterbury. 

While Canterbury is responding to a measles outbreak in its community, the Ministry of Health’s Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, is reassuring Kiwis that most of New Zealand remains measles free. 

‘It’s great to see that people are seeking advice from health-professionals about measles and vaccination. The most important way we can protect ourselves against future outbreaks is to maintain the National Immunisation Schedule, including vaccination with MMR at ages 15 months and 4 years. We have sufficient supplies of vaccine to do this, and to support Canterbury’s outbreak response. 

‘We have asked general practices outside of Canterbury to prioritise vaccination at ages 15 months and 4 years, and if they have stocks available, patients under 50 years who have not received any previous measles-containing vaccine. 

‘It’s also worth remembering that if you’ve already had one dose, you have a 95% chance of being protected. The reason we give a second dose is to capture the 5% who need this second vaccine to get immunity. Our standard MMR immunisation advice is that everyone born from 1969 needs two doses to be fully protected, but a large number of adults received one dose as young children. We estimate that around 90 percent of New Zealanders aged 29 to 50 are already protected from measles.’ 

‘People who would like a second MMR vaccine are being asked to be patient, so those with no vaccinations can get immunised first,’ says Dr McElnay. “We’re asking you to wait a few weeks before booking an appointment to help our medical centres focus their services on those who need it most.

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