FROM PARLIAMENT

A few weeks ago, I put on my Whangārei GP hat and covered a lunchtime session at the Whangārei Girls' High School meningitis vaccination centre vaccinating Whangārei children.

This was a very well-run centre with eight vaccinators including myself. I have backed our Northland District Health Board in its efforts to vaccinate Northland children against meningitis including vaccinating myself and lobbying the Ministry of Health for more funds for the campaign.

Going forward the DHB has my support, but looking backward I am increasingly concerned with the actions of the Ministry, Pharmac and the Minister around the delay in launching the campaign.

Did the Government "penny pinch" the Northland campaign and has Northland had the best chance for the best outcome? Answering this question has been like peeling back an onion - every layer reveals another issue.

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I will briefly explain my concerns and the reader can make their own assessment.

Firstly, the Northland meningitis campaign has been delayed. I believe the Northland DHB CEO when he told the Select Committee that he and his team warned the Ministry in May of a meningitis outbreak and pleaded for a vaccination programme. They were ignored until November 8 when an outbreak was declared.

Secondly, the Ministry website says 5-12 year olds in Northland will miss out because of vaccine availability. How can that be possible when thousands are being sold privately through an Auckland vaccine supplier and I myself can order dozens through my GP website?

Thirdly, I am increasingly becoming concerned with the Pharmac role and am exploring exactly what they did and did not do as the vaccine purchaser.

More specifically, the outbreak was declared on November 8 and yet the vaccine order was not placed by Pharmac until November 22 - 14 days later.

In Select Committee before Christmas, the CEO of Pharmac told me they had acted quickly, but why then was the order not placed for another two weeks?

It was revealing this week, as I addressed these issues on TV 1 news, that the Pharmac reply included, "we can't just focus on Northland as there are other health concerns in NZ also".

I would like the Ministry to tell us what the cost of vaccinating 5-12 year olds is and why that cost is too much for the Ministry to fund.

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I am lobbying for all Northland children under 20 years of age to be vaccinated. At the same time, I will keep exploring whether best practice has been followed so that Northland and others in the future will get the best possible outcomes.