This week I spoke with the principal at Kaihu Valley Primary School (Mamaranui) about the school's decision to cancel their school trip and trim other education items so that they could buy 16 meningitis vaccines for their high-risk children.
Sonia explained to me that it was a priority for the school to keep their children safe. I said to her, firstly thank you and secondly this is a government responsibility.
Later in the week I met with Shona from Hikurangi Primary. Shona and other concerned parents and whanau had seen the Kaihu school response and were worried for their children.
What I now know is that one of the children who died from meningitis W last year came from Hikurangi and another child from Hikurangi developed meningitis W but survived. Clearly there are risks. I said the same to Shona as I did to Sonia, firstly thank you and secondly this is a government responsibility.
Winter will soon be upon us and we know meningitis is worse in winter. Last year we had a Northland specialist warn of the meningitis epidemic that would unfold and he was right.
Our District Health Board has followed instructions the Ministry has given them and are doing the best they can, but it is not enough.
Why are Northland schools trading off education for meningitis vaccines? Why are there no meningitis vaccinations for 5-12-year-olds?
Together with Sonia and Shona we are working really hard to get our Northland children meningitis vaccinated before winter. These schools and others are fundraising in their communities and I am carrying your voice in Wellington and strongly lobbying the government and the Ministry of Health.
It takes several weeks to develop immunity after having the meningitis vaccine and in my view time is running out with winter approaching. Maybe I am missing something here but if not, my key meningitis vaccine question remains to the government, why not 5-12-year-olds?
* Dr Shane Reti is MP for Whangārei.