About 800 AIMS Games participants have not been vaccinated against measles - and a Tauranga mum says she plans to isolate her kids at home while the Anchor AIMS Games are on, to protect them from the disease.
Some parents are calling for the event to be cancelled to prevent the spread of measles in Tauranga, but others are less concerned.
Health authorities say event cancellations are not yet necessary, while letters have been sent instructing anyone with measles to stay away from the AIMS Games.
Tournament organisers say they are receiving and acting on official advice.
Some 11,500 intermediate-aged athletes from 368 schools from around New Zealand and the Pacific are set to take part in the six-day event from September 8.
That included students from around 100 schools in Auckland, the region hardest hit by a nationwide measles outbreak this year.
As of Saturday, Auckland has had 778 confirmed cases this year - up 19 on the day before - out of 937 nationwide.
The Bay of Plenty and Lakes have together had just over 30, with all recent cases linked to Auckland.
Pāpāmoa mum of two Tania Wyatt said warnings about avoiding Auckland had been all over the news.
Demand surges at medical centres for measles vaccine
Measles outbreak in Auckland prompts Bay of Plenty warning
"They are bringing Auckland children down, yet they're telling us to stay away from Auckland. What about all our babies that can't be immunised?
"You're bringing hundreds of children down from Auckland for a sporting thing that can be cancelled.
"I've got a five-year-old [who has had his first MMR vaccination] and a nine-week-old who obviously can't be immunised, which means basically we have to stay home away from all the people. We're isolated because we can't go out in our own town."
With teams staying all over the city, she was scared of the disease spreading beyond the tournament into schools and the wider community.
"I just can't risk it."
She had spoken to several other parents who shared her view.
Tania Hayward of Tauranga was less worried. She said her 21-year-old son caught measles in Tauranga this year even though he had been vaccinated.
She believed his dad took him for an MMR vaccination when he was around two but did not know if he had the recommended second dose when he was older.
She said people had the right to choose whether or not to vaccinate, and the same should apply to whether or not they chose to go to the AIMS Games or stayed home if unvaccinated.
Dr Niki Stefanogiannis, deputy director of public health at the Ministry of Health, said the ministry did not recommend events or gatherings be cancelled at this stage.
Organisers should liaise with DHBs and public health units for advice.
She said measles was highly contagious and school-based events should consider that students or staff could be in the early stages of measles without seeming sick.
We've had a heap of enquiries in the last few days around the measles outbreak affecting Auckland and other parts of the...Posted by Anchor AIMS Games International Sporting Championships on Thursday, 29 August 2019
A letter from Toi Te Ora Public Health on Friday instructed anyone with measles to stay away, and warned the same may be asked of unimmunised people who had contact with someone with the measles within two weeks of the tournament.
Tournament director Vicki Semple said the Bay of Plenty District Health Board had advised not to exclude attendees based on their immunisation status at this stage.
Vaccination was not compulsory in New Zealand, she said.
She said organisers were in constant contact with health authorities and had been working on this issue since July.
"We will continue to receive and act on all the advice given to us by the experts at the Ministry of Health and the DHB."
Each participating school had been asked to establish the immunisation status of its participants and contact parents of unvaccinated children to talk through the risks.
About 800 participants were unvaccinated.
She said the advice was to take sensible precautions and consider staying away - particularly from the opening ceremony - if there was any risk.
Organisers were working hard to make sure the event would be safe, she said. The most up-to-date advice would be on the tournament's website.
Auckland public health authorities said on Saturday that while a medical officer of health had powers to direct event organisers to cancel, the current level of risk from measles did not warrant it.
Most of Auckland's measles cases have been in South Auckland.
On Friday New Zealand Rugby League scrapped its 26-school national secondary schools competition, due to be played in South Auckland next week, on medical advice.
The event was part of a wider national winter secondary schools tournament, the rest of which was still expected to go ahead.
- Measles is highly contagious – and easily preventable.
- It affects both children and adults.
- Two doses of the measles vaccine provides the most effective protection.
- After one dose of the MMR vaccine, about 95 per cent of people are protected.
- After two doses, more than 99 per cent of people are protected.
- In New Zealand, if you were born in 1969 or later, you can get the measles vaccine for free.
Source: Ministry of Health
First symptoms of measles
- A runny nose
- Sore and watery 'pink' eyes
- Sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of your mouth.
Source: Ministry of Health