2019/20 measles outbreak information

Last updated 1:45 pm,  24 February 2020

On this page you will find information on immunisation, vaccine guidelines, travelling and more.

The Ministry of Health has stepped down its emergency response to the national measles outbreak but will continue to monitor the situation closely. The outbreak is ongoing, but the number of new cases has dropped significantly, with just seven cases of measles in January 2020. 

In response to the strong decline in cases, the Ministry considers the situation to be stable enough to remove the national priorities for MMR vaccination. Please see Section I of PHARMAC’s Pharmaceutical Schedule for standard eligibility to receive publicly funded MMR vaccination.

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Measles is very infectious. The symptoms of measles include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • sore and watery ‘pink eyes’
  • rash.

If you, or someone you know, has any of these symptoms please ring Healthline on freephone 0800 611 116 or call your doctor. It’s really important you stay home, but if you do go to the doctor, please phone before visiting, as they can help you avoid infecting other patients. There’s more important measles advice further down this page.

Travelling to the Pacific

Given the outbreaks of measles across the Pacific, some Pacific Island countries are requiring travellers to show evidence of measles vaccination.

American Samoa, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Tokelau and the Solomon Islands are requiring travellers to show evidence that they have been vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before arrival. You can find the latest travel advisory for your destination country on the SafeTravel website

Other Pacific Island countries may not have travel measures in place, but it is highly recommended that all travellers to this region are vaccinated against measles at least two weeks before they travel. As country-specific requirements of entry and exit can change with short notice, it is important that travellers carry documented proof of vaccination or evidence of their immunity with them.

Proof of vaccination or immunity may include medical records, laboratory tests, immunisation record summaries, or letters from GPs or vaccinators, detailing the vaccination.

Due to the above documentation requirements, any eligible individual is able to receive the MMR vaccine, including those aged over 50 years, if they are travelling to a country where proof of vaccination is required on entry or if a vaccination is necessary for protection in countries currently experiencing measles outbreaks.

In New Zealand, children receive their first MMR dose at 15 months (12 months in Auckland) and their second dose at four years as part of the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

However, infants aged from six months who are travelling to an outbreak area should have one dose of MMR at least two weeks before they go. Please note that any child vaccinated before 12 months of age will still need two further doses of MMR in line with the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

People who are not immune, have early symptoms of measles or who have been in contact with someone who has measles in the last 14 days should not travel.

Read our advice about taking children and babies to Auckland.

Travelling to New Zealand

People intending to travel to New Zealand should be fully immunised for measles. If you need additional vaccination, it should be administered at least two weeks before arriving in New Zealand.

Remember, people who aren’t immune and have early symptoms of measles (fever, cough, runny nose, sore eyes and/or a rash) shouldn’t travel.

Babies and children

Child eligibility for vaccination

Regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, children are eligible for publicly funded vaccinations on the Immunisation Schedule, and Well Child/Tamariki Ora services. This includes the MMR vaccinations, which cover measles.

Babies (under six months)

We know measles is worrying for everyone, especially for parents and whānau of babies and young children. Babies born to mums who are immune will have some of this protection passed on because antibodies are transferred from mother to baby, giving baby some immunity for those early months.

The best protection for very young children is to ensure that whānau, carers, and other people around them are vaccinated. If you have a Plunket or Well Child Tamariki Ora book, it should record if you’ve been immunised against measles. Unimmunised people who might have been in contact with someone who has measles should take a cautious approach when interacting with babies.

Pregnancy and MMR vaccine

Women shouldn’t get immunised against measles while pregnant. If you're pregnant and think you may have measles or have come in contact with someone with measles, you should call your general practice, lead maternity carer or Healthline on 0800 611 116 as soon as possible.

People over 50

You don’t need an immunisation as measles used to be very common, which means people over the age of 50 are considered immune.

Case numbers

From 1 January 2019 to 29 January 2020 there have been 2193 confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand. 1736 of these confirmed cases are in the Auckland region.

The Ministry of Health is regularly reviewing this advice and expects it will remain in place as long as there are serious outbreaks occurring.

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