Rowshae Albert, whose 7-year-old daughter Alexis died of the meningococcal W strain in July, has helped Northland District Health Board hold a vaccination clinic in Hikurangi.

She asked the NDHB to hold a local clinic because some local parents needed encouragement and support, and some had no transport to take their children to clinics in Whangārei.

NDHB responded, and on Wednesday an all-day vaccination clinic was held at the Tornado community centre in Hikurangi.

One mother, Kat Cox, said she was pleased to take her 2-year-old to the facility among people she knew, rather than travel into Whangārei and possibly face queues on a hot day.

Kat Cox with her two-year old son Spencer and Rowshae Albert who lobbied to get a vaccination clinic at Hikurangi.
Kat Cox with her two-year old son Spencer and Rowshae Albert who lobbied to get a vaccination clinic at Hikurangi.

Albert, an early childhood teacher and also a volunteer at Tornado, was on-site all day.

''I'm very, very happy and pleased to see these parents and children here,'' she said.

''I do feel there is a high level of awareness out there but a lot of people have still reached out to me for advice, and my advice is, now that it's available, have your children vaccinated.''

When the vaccination plan was announced in late November, the broken-hearted mother described the news as ''bittersweet''.

Albert said had there been public warnings issued about meningococcal disease she would have acted far more speedily when her daughter first showed signs of illness.

"I can't turn back time. I can only look at the positives and they're actually doing something about it and now other families can do something about it."

After 17 days, nearly 10,000 meningococcal vaccinations and thousands of staff and volunteer hours, the DHB described its 50 per cent reach of the two targeted age groups a success.

Phase one of the roll-out, which ends today at 4pm has seen more than 139 clinics held at Northland schools, health and community centres.


Phase two will start January but until the clinics are up and running again vaccinations will be available to the 13-year to under-20 year group at seven designated chemists around Northland.

The vaccination programme began on December 5, nine days after the Ministry of Health declared an ''outbreak'' in Northland based on population. Six Northlanders had contracted MenW since May, three of whom died.

Pharmac could procure only 26,000 doses of vaccine due to international demand and the DHB made the call to immunise two age groups — from 9 months old to under 5 years, and between 13 and under- 20.

There are 22,000 children and teenagers registered with the DHB in those age groups.

"With vaccine stocks limited, both nationally and internationally we decided to vaccinate those most at risk from the disease and also those most likely to carry the disease and infect others," said Jeanette Wedding, general manager of child and youth health services.

"We will be rolling out targeted outreach clinics and a secondary school-based programme is also being considered in February to ensure that all the eligible 13 to under-20-year olds have been vaccinated."

The DHB will analyse the data and assess the coverage to identify any pockets or communities which need further targeting.

Meanwhile, the Public Health Association of New Zealand (PHANZ) has applauded the progress made in the fight against MenW in Northland.

PHA acting general manager Keriata Stuart said that what had been achieved in such a short period of time was remarkable.

"The way in which Northland DHB, the Ministry of Health and communities have risen to this challenge shows the power of collective action in tackling public health issues.

"The MenW vaccination programme is helping build the population's immunity and save lives. If you're a parent in Northland who hasn't yet had your eligible child immunised, we strongly encourage you to do so. This small action can help protect a whole community."