General medical practices in Northland have run out of measles vaccination, making tens of thousands of people vulnerable while the Ministry of Health decides which areas should be prioritised.

Frustrated GPs are calling on the ministry to expedite the release of more MMR vaccines given the fact a further five cases of measles were confirmed in Northland on Tuesday, taking the total to 40 so far.

A further seven cases are under investigation.

The ministry is redistributing the vaccine, with a focus on Auckland where an epidemic has been declared after 959 confirmed cases of measles as of Tuesday this week.


It did not respond by edition time on when the next dose of vaccine would be made available to Northland GPs.

Upsurge in Northland measles vaccinations as free clinic opens

Te Hiku Hauora runs two GP clinics in Kaitaia and one at Coopers Beach looking after 13,600 patients and ran out of MMR vaccine more than a week ago.

"The ministry has put supplies on hold until it decides how to prioritise the vaccine. We're not happy. Children who are due to be vaccinated at 15 months who should be protected can't be because there's no vaccine available," practice manager Cheryl Britton said.

She said one her nurses contacted the Northland District Health Board which sent an email, inquiring about stock levels without confirming when supplies were coming.

Dr Conlin Locke of Raumanga Medical Centre in Whangārei said an absence of the vaccine was frustrating because his staff spent time organising vaccination appointments then cancelling them.

"With the meningococcal last year, you'd think the ministry would sort out the measles vaccine. There are a lot of families who walk to medical practices so access is a major issue in terms of immunisation.

"We assume the ministry is putting the vaccines in most important places. We can't even immunise 15-month-olds who are missing out on their normal MMRs."

Whangārei GP Dr Conlin Locke says the Ministry of Health should expedite the delivery of MMR vaccines for better protection against measles. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Whangārei GP Dr Conlin Locke says the Ministry of Health should expedite the delivery of MMR vaccines for better protection against measles. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Locke said his clinic fielded 10 to 15 calls daily from people wanting basic information about measles or trying to make appointments for MMR vaccination.

He has seen patients who displayed measles symptoms in the clinic carpark as a precautionary measure.

"With low rates of immunisation, it's only a matter of time before Whangārei has more measles cases. If people get measles, then there are lots of complications associated with it."

Locke said the ministry needed to sort out more supplies of MMR vaccines quickly or at least talk to GP clinics.

A staff member at Kerikeri Medical Centre confirmed the clinic has run out of measles vaccine, saying the situation was similar throughout New Zealand.

"We're at the mercy of the Medical Officer of Health."

She was unable to say when the next lot of vaccine would arrive.

Whangārei MP and National's associate spokesman for health, Dr Shane Reti, called on the ministry to put more resources into fighting measles, including allowing pharmacists to administer the MMR vaccine.

"The ministry should also provide more resourcing to the DHB so that they can reach out to rural areas of Northland via schools and clinics and also to step up workplace vaccinations for adults.

"This is looking like another botched vaccine response that the Government can add to its legacy, in keeping with the Northland meningitis vaccination campaign, running out of flu vaccines in May and now supply problems with the measles vaccine," he said.

Free MMR vaccine is given at the Child Wellbeing Hub, 22b Commerce St in Whangārei, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.